Gather ’round, children, for a tale of the Old World. Yes, we’re talking about those halcyon and bygone days when an entire Netflix could fit in a mailbox, and Pizza Hut used to force children to read on pain of personal pan. Back in those days, it was said, a saxophone-playing man ruled America with a grease-coated fist, and you could walk clear from one side of the country to the other atop the roofs of Blockbuster stores alone. It was a simpler time; maybe even a better time, if you were looking to make it big in slap bracelet futures or ride to glory on a tidal wave of pogs. But you don’t have to take our word for it, readers; that’s what clever visualizations of American rental store trends were so clearly made to do.
Like the above, from V1 Analytics, which shows the fairly rapid rise, and then sudden, disastrous fall, of Blockbuster LLC. Tracking every store opening—and then the other thing—from the company’s 30-and-still-technically-counting-year history, it demonstrates the humble beginnings, and then even more humble ends, of what was once one of the most important institutions in American Friday nights. Using data pulled from Blockbuster’s own financial reporting, you can see the wave of blue-and-gold stores hit their peak in the early 2000s—and then begin to recede starting in early 2005, culminating in the final massive plunge in early 2014 when the final corporate-owned stores closed, leaving only a few franchises to carry that weight. It all boils down to the dark moment in the fall of 2018, when only two stores remained. (You can’t see the second one on the map, because that was when Jesus was carrying you. Or it might just have been in Western Australia, and closed in 2019.) And then there’s just one lone soldier trudging along: The Last Blockbuster, now a minor tourist destination in Bend, Oregon.
Is there a moral here? Probably not, or at least Not any more so than in any other portrait of businesses failing to understand when rivals magically transform them into dinosaurs. (We would also accept “You will never be young again.”) But it is a nice little glimpse at how quickly the world can change.