Blockbuster owner DISH Network Corp. announced it will be closing its 300 remaining stores in January 2014, but Central Peninsula residents will still be able to get their fill of film superheroes, star-crossed lovers and funny guys and gals.
The Kenai and Soldotna stores are franchises of Blockbuster owned by Border Entertainment based in Austin, Texas, and will remain open.
Following the closure of the 300 stores, about 50 will be left in the U.S. and Border Entertainment owner, Alan Payne, said his company will own 26 of them, 13 are located in Alaska.
Kenai resident Angelo Long said he’s surprised to see movie rental stores in the area doing well after seeing so many close when he lived in California.
Long’s friend Thomas Mannon said they use Netflix online but the film options can’t compare to what the store offers.
“(Blockbuster) is the only way we can get new movies,” Mannon said.
Long thought the movie rental vending machine company, Redbox, hadn’t yet popped up in the area. However, Redbox lists at least one location in Soldotna on its website.
Payne’s stores have adjusted to the changes in the movie rental industry and haven’t experienced the rate of business decline that the rest of Blockbuster has as companies like Netflix, iTunes, Amazon.com and Redbox take over the market.
Kenai resident Chris Morin said she tried Netflix, but she prefers Blockbuster.
“(I) like walking in and seeing the pictures,” Morin said.
Payne said Border Entertainment made changes to its operations even before the recent boom in online movie streaming.
In the early 2000s when the transition was being made from VHS to DVD, Payne said the company determined VHS would be completely wiped out, so it completely rebuilt store inventories.
He said in the Soldotna store, it was a challenge to offer both formats in “one little bitty store,” but the company did it.
Payne said during that transition, business actually improved for Border Entertainment.
Since then, the company has lowered movie prices to 49 cents for one-day rentals and 99 cents for five-day rentals. New releases are priced higher, but are still less than other options, Payne said.
“We just tried do the best we could at transitioning and giving customers what they wanted and clearly that has changed over the last several years,” Payne said.
Shane Carter of Kasilof said he likes streaming movies and finds it easier even with his low-grade Internet that sometimes gives him problems, but the new releases have him renting from Blockbuster, too.
Christy Walker of Kenai likes that she can rent movies for longer from Blockbuster than other from companies.
Payne said the Kenai and Soldotna stores are both doing well, and with about what will be 25 percent of the nation’s remaining Blockbusters in Alaska that number shows how good the business is in the state.
“It’s not what it used to be but it’s still a good business,” he said.
If Border Entertainment had followed suit of what other stores were doing, he said its stores would be sticking around either.
The company is working to license the Blockbuster name, and customers probably won’t notice a difference; Border Entertainment Blockbuster stores will be around indefinitely, he said.
So, Central Peninsula movie lovers get ready to sit back, relax and enjoy low-priced rentals and new releases for the foreseeable future.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at email@example.com.