It seems like just yesterday, but the popularity of video rentals hit its peak almost two decades ago! With the likes of streaming sites and Videos on demand, there isn’t much use for mainstream video stores anymore, although there are still small family-owned niche ones. If you’re feeling nostalgic, join us as we look back on some of the major rental stores that were once hugely successful.
Looking Back on Movie Rentals: Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video, and Family Video
Blockbuster was one of the most successful video rental companies and is probably the most well-known, although later it experimented with DVD-by-mail, streaming, Video on demand, and cinema theater.
The first Blockbuster store opened in 1985 in Dallas, Texas with an inventory of 8,000 VHS and 2,000 Beta tapes. After its success, it expanded rapidly throughout the United States and then opened internationally in the 1990s. By 1993, it invested in the indoor kids play restaurant Discovery Zone, but it closed half of its locations in 1999 and sold thirteen others to Chuck E. Cheese. Sadly, Discovery Zone officially closed all remaining locations in 2001.
From 1995 to 2001, Blockbuster hosted the Blockbuster Entertainment Awards as a way to promote the company and performers whose records and films were sold in the stores. Award votes were cast by customers.
In 2004, Blockbuster opened store-within-a-store video game rental and sales stores called GameRush inside its rental locations. That same year is when it hit its peak, with 9,094 stores and 84,000 employees (58,000 in the United States and 25,800 in other countries).
Its popularity started to decline after services like Netlix and Redbox gained momentum, and unfortunately had to file for bankruptcy in 2010. By then, only 1,700 stores remained, which were bought by Dish Network. By early 2014, the last 300 company-owned stores closed, although Dish allowed some privately-owned franchises to stay open. Today, there is only one store left, located in Bend, Oregon.
Hollywood Entertainment Corp (Hollywood Video) started in 1988 as the largest direct competitor to Blockbuster. By 1995, it held 153 stores in 11 states, some operating under the names Video Park or Video Central, but it had plans to triple the number of locations by late 1997.
That same year, in 1995, Blockbuster filed a lawsuit against the company, citing the hiring of five former employees who allegedly had knowledge of some of the company’s trade secrets, but the judge ruled in Hollywood Video’s favor.
The store sadly suffered the same decline as Blockbuster and was purchased in 2005 by Movie Gallery, making it a subsidiary. Movie Gallery focused on locations in mostly rural areas, and Hollywood Video opened in urban areas to compete with Blockbuster.
Although it was at one point the second largest rental store, Hollywood Video ceased operations in 2010 when Movie Gallery filed for bankruptcy.
Family Video, founded in 1978, was a rental chain found in both the United States and Canada. Like Movie Gallery, it established itself in mostly rural, suburban, and small-to-mid-size areas since Blockbuster was set up in mostly urban locations.
Family Video operated 800 stores at its peak, but when video stores started to lose popularity by 2013, the service created a partnership with Marco’s Pizza to provide space for its franchise as a way to deliver videos with pizza orders.
By 2016, it was the sole-surviving video rental company in the United States, but it closed the last of its 250 locations in January of 2021 due to Covid-19. It now serves as just an online company.
Do you miss renting movies at these chain stores, or do you enjoy using streaming services more?