BE KIND. Rewind.
Make it a Blockbuster night.
If only you could rewind the years by pressing a button on a VCR.
Then, perhaps Blockbuster could change its story so it didn't suffer the same fate as the VHS movies it rented to moviegoers before the arrival of the DVD and a scrappy upstart called Netflix.
At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster Video operated 9,100 locations nationwide and had crushed its mostly mom-and-pop competitors. By the end of this month, it'll be down to 350 stores.
And just one in the Granite State.
The Blockbuster at 581 Second St. in Manchester plans to close on Oct. 25, store managers there say. Going-out-of-business signs now decorate its windows, which had been advertising 99-cent-a-day rentals in a last-gasp plea to attract customers away from those pesky Redbox kiosks.
That will leave the Blockbuster at 50 Storrs Road in Concord as the company's last foothold in New Hampshire. In the world of video streaming, those rental DVDs will eventually go the way of their VHS ancestors. Think 8-track tapes, stereo cassettes and vinyl LP records. (Scratch that last one - newly pressed vinyl has made a comeback.)
The Manchester store is among the 100 underperforming Blockbuster locations its Colorado-based parent company, Dish Network, is closing this fall as the satellite television provider attempts to recoup the $320 million it paid for the bankrupt chain in 2011.
Back then, Dish Network CEO Charlie Ergen had a vision to sell mobile devices at the company's then-remaining 1,700 stores to stream Blockbuster movies. But that plan suffered delays at the hands of the Federal Communications Commission, whose permission Ergen needed to use the Dish Network's satelite spectrum for the wireless venture.
These days, the Dish Network is using the Blockbuster brand to compete with DirecTV, Comcast and the streaming services introduced by Netflix and copied by Amazon and Redbox, which recently launched a monthly subscription that also includes four kiosk DVD rentals.
Blockbuster On Demand offers a la carte streaming, charging customers per movie rather than a flat monthly rate. Blockbuster@home allows Dish Network subscribers to stream 15 movie channels on their TV, computer or iPad. It's aptly named. Once people were able to rent movies without leaving their living rooms, why did they need a Blockbuster store?
The downfall of the company underscores how quickly changes in technology can decimate a brick-and-mortar business. While Blockbuster was still trying to catch up to Netflix with its own DVD-by-mail service, Netflix was already onto the next game changer, which it launched in 2007, a movie and TV show streaming service you access through the Internet.
At first, that seemed like a marginal business venture. How often do you want to watch movies on a laptop?
That didn't last long, however. Now most new TVs come with Web streaming access pre-installed, and the iPad and Apple TV have popularized private movie viewing. The remote for my Sony's Blu-Ray player, also equipped with Internet access, includes a bright red Netflix button.
Two years ago, Netflix buzzed by cable giant Comcast, attracting more unique subscribers for its video subscription services than Comcast has cable customers. Amazon also joined the fray, launching a video streaming service that it bundles with free shipping and free Kindle ebook rentals for $79 a year, underpricing Netflix.
Meanwhile, Comcast recently launched its X1 interactive system, designed to integrate search results for live TV, Xfinity on-demand and DVR to help viewers sort through the dizzying array of choices available.
For some finicky viewers, that still might be "57 Channels (And nothin' on)," as Bruce Springsteen sang 20 years ago, but plenty enough nothing to keep you from leaving your house to check out a DVD from a video store.
Can someone show me where I can find the popcorn button on my remote?
Mike Cote is business editor at the Union Leader. Contact him at 668-4321, ext. 324 or firstname.lastname@example.org.