At some point, you'll be driving around with your kids, and you’ll pass a retail store with a big blue ticket for a sign. At this point, you’ll have to explain that the building once belonged to Blockbuster Video. Your fascinating Blockbuster stories will make them long for a time when one could walk up and down the aisles of a video store, imagining what each film was about while a vertical slice of What Lies Beneath plays on the store’s television. Then they'll go back to enjoying streaming services on their tablets.
Even though Blockbuster was a huge part of every millennial's life, there are probably still a bunch of things you didn't know about Blockbuster, the McDonald’s of the video rental world. Unless you were lucky enough to be one of their faithful employees, you probably never noticed all the behind the scenes work that went into creating the once ubiquitous chain. And while their fall was hard to miss, you might be surprised to find out that in some parts of the US, the company is still thriving.
Blockbuster Was The First Store To Keep Tapes On Shelves
Aside from the massive blue sign, the biggest thing that set Blockbuster apart from other video stores was the way that they stocked their tapes. While most stores kept their cassettes behind the counter to keep people from stealing them, Blockbuster stocked them like a library.
This was a major deal; not only did it show customers which movies were available, but it also allowed them to peruse titles at their own pace. Since the company was taking a major risk by leaving their tapes out for people to steal, their decision showed off the fact that they were making major bucks in the rental game.
Blockbuster Could Have Purchased Netflix
Before Netflix got into the streaming business, they exclusively sent out copies of physical DVDs. While they were doing pretty well, they weren't the dominant film distributor that they are today. In the early 2000s, Netflix was worth about $50 million, and they offered Blockbuster the opportunity to buy them out.
Blockbuster passed, and instead signed a contract to work with Enron Broadband on an in-demand video service. Enron Broadband went bankrupt within a year — a major setback for the rental company — whereas Netflix continued to make all the money.
Sorry Y'all, There Are No Adult Films At Blockbuster
Blockbuster never rented out any kind of adult film, and in 1991, the company struck a blow to the not-quite adult film industry when they announced that they would no longer be stocking films that were rated NC-17. At the time, a representative for Blockbuster told the LA Times, "We have always had a policy that we don't carry any movie that the Motion Picture Assn. of America rates X. When they revised the X rating, we said we would wait and see how they would use the new rating. But the criteria used for NC-17 was the same as the X."
Blockbuster Made Bank On Late Fees
You might think that Blockbuster made most of its money from renting new movies, but the company actually paid their bills with the late fees accrued when people forgot to return their VHS rentals. In 2000, they made 16% of their total revenue off of those tiny fees. At the time, that amounted to $800 million; man, those late fees add up.