Last Sonoma County Blockbuster to close doors

  • Tom Scott browses the movie selection at Blockbuster Video in Rohnert Park on Wednesday, November 6, 2013. DISH Network Corp., which owns Blockbuster Video, announced that it will close its 300 remaining retail stores by early January, and end Blockbuster By Mail service in mid-December. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

As Lexi Cruz rang up a steady stream of customers at the Blockbuster store in Rohnert Park on Wednesday afternoon, she gave them the same news she had learned that morning: "We'll be closed by January."

In a move signaling the end of an era in the home entertainment business, the movie rental retailer Blockbuster will close its remaining stores and end its DVD-by-mail service.

Dish Network Corp., which owns Blockbuster LLC, said on Wednesday that it will end its retail operations and shutter the mail-order unit by January, closing down the last 300 company-owned stores in the United States, along with its distribution centers.

Franchised and licensed stores will stay open.

"I think it's a shame, really," said Susie Morris, 48, who rented videos at the Rohnert Park store several times a month. She said other video services, like Redbox, which rents DVDs from machines at low prices, often didn't offer the movies she was seeking.

But former customers of the Santa Rosa Blockbuster on Fulton Road, which completed a liquidation sale last month, were less concerned about the closure. Many said they had moved on to using services like Netflix or the Redbox in the nearby Raley's years ago.

"You just do it online; it's so much easier," said Scott Edwards, 55, who shops regularly at Raley's and was smoking a cigarette outside the vacant Blockbuster on Wednesday.

Like Edwards, many consumers that once got in the car and drove to the store to rent a movie now prefer to access entertainment through streaming services such as Netflix or video-on-demand products from cable and satellite operators. That migration has contributed to Blockbuster's slow demise.

Founded in 1985, Blockbuster had close to 10,000 stores at its peak. It put smaller retailers out of business and gobbled up bigger competitors. In 1994, Viacom acquired Blockbuster and later spun it off in 2004. Dish bought the chain out of bankruptcy in 2011 with ambitions to turn it into a Netflix competitor.

As recently as two years ago, there were still 1,700 Blockbuster stores.

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