Blockbuster

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Until its closure in 2013, Blockbuster was the world's biggest video and DVD rental chain. The first store opened in Dallas in 1985, the brainchild of software developer David Cook, whose aim was to offer the widest possible selection of videos backed up by a sophisticated computerised inventory system. He sold the business in 1987 to waste management millionaire Wayne Huizenga, who proceeded to expand the chain rapidly across first America and then the world, opening or acquiring more than 1,000 outlets in five years. The chain was acquired by Viacom in 1995 for $8.4bn, but almost immediately began to encounter fierce competition, first from mail order renters Netflix and Amazon and then cable companies offering instant access video-on-demand. At its peak, Blockbuster had more than 9,000 stores in nine countries and sales of $5.9bn, but after several years of difficult performance, Viacom spun off the business in 2004. It continued to struggle with the rapidly changing market. In 2008, Blockbuster launched a bid to acquire failing electronics chain Circuit City for $1bn, but later withdrew its offer in the face of declining economic conditions. Blockbuster itself filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010, and narrowly avoided closure. It was acquired by satellite broadcaster Dish Network in 2011, and began pruning its retail network during 2012, cutting more than half of its US outlets. Total revenues that year were $1.1bn. Virtually all remaining stores were closed by the end of 2013, though for a while Dish used the brand for its on-demand streaming service. Bizarrely, a handful of independently owned outlets of Blockbuster remained open for several more years, including nine in Alaska, where the high cost and slow speed of internet connections made streaming less practical. These too gradually shuttered. The UK division of Blockbuster called in administrators in 2013 following further declines in performance and it too closed its doors at the end of that year. The various other international outlets also gradually shut their doors, with Australia the last to go in March 2019. By late 2019, only one store remained anywhere in the world, in the city of Bend in central Oregon, USA. In September 2020 it is opening itself up to nostalgia-themed sleepovers via Airbnb.

Capsule checked 4th November 2019

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