Thanks in part to Netflix, we can now roll the final credits for movie rental chain Blockbuster Video. At its peak, it operated more than 9,000 stores nationwide and raked in $6 billion in annual revenue, but filed for bankruptcy in 2010 after declining to purchase Netflix in 2000. And what’s risen from its ashes — the stores that moved in to fill those dusty DVD shelves — reveals just how much the consumer landscape has changed, and will continue to change in the future.
What types of business replaced these Blockbusters?
Readers have identified former Blockbuster locations

Source: Reader submissions

Although no one type of business has come to dominate the empty spaces left behind after Blockbuster shut down, our research, which is based on data from Hoursmap.com – containing over 4,000 Blockbuster locations in the U.S., has shown a few noticeable trends: restaurants, pizzerias, fast food chains, and urgent-care or other medical facilities were some of the most common to move in.

Why those? These kinds of businesses are relatively insulated from the explosive growth of e-commerce, says Sam Chandan, associate dean of New York University’s Schack Institute of Real Estate. Indeed, they’re stores that often require your physical presence in them or that provide goods and services that can’t easily be purchased online. “Anything you can get delivered, that you can consume in your own home … those are the kinds of goods that are vulnerable to the e-commerce revolution,” William Goetzmann, a professor of finance at the Yale School of Business, told Moneyish.

Blockbuster locations in 2010

Map of blockbuster locations in the contiguous U.S.

The New York metro area had over 200 stores and the most in the country
With Blockbuster starting in Texas, both Dallas and Houston had some of the highest number of stores.
The L.A. metro area had the second greatest number of locations
Carson City, Nevada had the highest ratio of Blockbusters to residents

Note: Population is based on 2010 census

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, HoursMap

Indeed, e-commerce growth has exploded since the turn of the millennium: The total value e-commerce in the United States hit $27.61 billion in 2000; 15 years later, that number skyrocketed up to $340.42 billion in 2015. And growth forecasts putting the number up to as much as $459.23 billion by the year 2020

This is a trend you’re going to see more and more. Leading experts agree that the future of strip malls will revolve around businesses that deal in commercial activities insulated from the rise of e-commerce. “Blockbuster isn’t alone — the decline of the company is really emblematic of broader trends we see across the landscape of the US economy,” said Syracuse University professor of pop culture Robert Thompson.

“A REAL WINNER”
Blockbuster once over 9,000 storefronts in the U.S.
In 1989, a new Blockbuster was opening its doors every 17 hours.
“EXTRAORDINARY”
Blockbuster’s late fees were, in 2000, an $800M/year business
This is equivalent to the size of Blue Apron in 2016.
“A RARE GEM”
In 2000, Netflix pitched Blockbuster their streaming technology.
Offering to sell for just $50M, Blockbuster turned them down.
“BREAKOUT ROLE”
At its peak in 2004, Blockbuster employed about 58,500 people in the U.S.
This is about 16 times the number of Netflix employees now.
“PROPHETIC!”
Nov 9th, 2013. A Blockbuster in Hawaii makes the last official Blockbuster rental
The Seth Rogan & James Franco Stoner/Buddy-Pic, “This Is the End”.
“TIMELESS”
As of this writing there are still 12 Blockbuster franchises open.
But to hang out on a Friday night, you’ll have to fly to Alaska.

Real estate professor Kevin Gray of the Yale School of Management agrees: “I’ve seen health care centers, I’ve seen call centers, gymnasiums, fitness centers like Climate Fitness,” he summarized. His prediction is that strip malls will continue to operate, albeit predominantly with different kinds of businesses — in some cases, “experiential businesses,” like restaurants that bring people together — but that major retailers aren’t going out the window in the immediate future.

“These retail chains don’t die like in a war movie, where someone gets shot,” Gray told Moneyish. “They did like a tree, one limb a time. JCPenney and Kmart are taking forever.”

If you want to keep mining this nostalgia sphere, then scope out the style in this Friday night rental scene, revisit rare Blockbuster employee training artifacts, or follow the last Blockbuster on Twitter.


Data sources: Hoursmap.com, Google Maps
Sources: Washington Post, NBC, Business Insider, Blockbuster, Netflix, The Guardian, Don’t Waste Your Money
Note: The list of addresses found on Hoursmap.com were geocoded using the Google Maps Geocoding API. Plenty of locations were removed or added based on further manual investigation. Geocoded locations may not appear exactly over rooftops, especially when in large strip malls or places without unique address numbers.

Gif of TV screen flipping between old and new Google Maps imagery of an old Blockbuster.

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