Feb 012006
Authors: David Swindle Daily News Ball State U.

(U-WIRE) MUNCIE, Ind. – It's generally a pretty good axiom that one should not rejoice in the sufferings and misfortunes of others. That's especially hard to do, though, when the one who's fallen face-first is someone – or in this case, something – you've been longing to see get its comeuppance.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Blockbuster Inc. reported in November that it's taken a nasty third quarter loss. The company lost $491.4 million – that's $2.67 a share.

The Jefferson City News Tribune reports, "Recently, online mail order competition from companies like Netflix has also cut into traditional rental business. Netflix signed up over 3 million subscribers by 2005.

"The steady decline is leading some experts to signal the death knell for rental chains with thousands of stores like Blockbuster and Movie Gallery and smaller 'mom and pop' movie rental stores."

The primary reason for Blockbuster's recent troubles is that it must now compete with the vastly superior Netflix.

For far too long, Blockbuster has been a thorn in my movie-loving side. The relationship was first soured – though not destroyed – when Blockbuster stocked an "edited version" of my beloved "Requiem for a Dream." Blockbuster has long refused to stock NC-17 or unrated films, as it claims to be a "family store." Yet it has no problem offering unrated versions of the "American Pie" films and their gross-out kin.

Hypocrisy is a family value too, you know.

The nail in the coffin came when I sought a second summer job after sophomore year. Despite a sign advertising a need for help, my application was automatically rejected. A friend who was an assistant manager was furious. Apparently if you don't pass the personality test then your application doesn't even go through to the manager.

I questioned some of the employees about it, and one of them claimed the system had even rejected a valedictorian who was planning on going to seminary.

Oh, is it ever delightful to see this philistine bully taking hits from the sling of an Internet David.

Rarely are the cruel machinations of capitalism something to be celebrated.

We're much more accustomed to seeing a large behemoth come in and pick off the smaller businesses one by one.

It's tremendously refreshing to instead see a new guy emerge, say "Hey, I've got some better ideas," take on the big guy and succeed.

New standards have been set. The Netflix David has called its people and declared, "No more late fees! You can keep the movie as long as you want! No more driving to the store and standing in line! You want something beyond the mainstream hits? You've got it! And you can check out as many as you want, all for one flat fee!"

It breaks down like this: Your typical video store has about 10,000 titles. Netflix has more than 50,000. It's truly amazing some of the obscure stuff you can find on there.

Online rentals are also the ideal choice for college students, especially those living in the residence halls without easy access to their cars.

With Netflix rising to power, the question that follows is: "What new model will eventually replace it?"

It's widely regarded that downloading movies will be "the next big thing." Unfortunately for Hollywood, that's already happening – illegally. But the pirating of films will not necessarily disrupt legal downloads; I don't foresee your average suburban soccer mom having the time, drive and computer know-how to pirate and burn her own DVDs for the family to watch.

Those are the key elements: effort, time, and money.

As soon as someone can deliver movies cheaper, easier and more quickly, Netflix will find itself in Blockbuster's shoes.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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