The death knell seems to be rolling across the hills for video rental stores.  The onslaught of competitors is growing by leaps and bounds, and it looks like the funeral pyre is being readied for the current rental model.  The question is, will anyone even miss it?

While the Blockbuster chain is the most recognizable brand name in the video rental industry, it is really all retail store front locations that are in danger.  With the announcement that Walmart has bought Vudu, things are looking even more grim for those that are holding on to the old business model.

rentalstoresBlockbuster has been taking hits in its international operations having shut down its stores in Ecuador, Spain, El Salvador and most recently, Portugal. The stated reason for these closures was the increase in Internet piracy, which is of course a problem everywhere in this day and age, so it isn’t clear why it was so much trouble in these particular locations.

Domestically in the United States, the onslaught on all rental stores is even more diverse.  Besides the increase in peer-to-peer piracy, there is also the fact that Redbox, despite its recent deal with Warner Brothers that withholds new releases for 28 days after initial release, is eating away at all rental stores due to its $1-per-night pricing and ease of rental & return.

Now you have Netflix and Vudu’s streaming services showing up in televisions, Blu-ray players and set top boxes.  Amazon is delivering its rentals to TiVos and Roku boxes.  ITunes is renting movies digitally the same day as DVD releases.  Why should anyone have to enter a “destination” store any more to pick up a movie when they can have it delivered to their home on demand and without ever leaving the couch or even going to the mailbox?

One of the surest signs that the number of rental stores is decreasing was the announcement in Jan. of Video Business magazine shutting its doors after nearly 29 years in business.  Once a staple of the video rental industry, the lack of circulation  –which was free to anyone working at a business related to the rental industry — just goes to show that the number of stores is dropping dramatically.

The only stores that may survive the oncoming onslaught are the true “mom & pop” style stores that specialize in the obscure and out of print films that just can’t be carried by the bigger chains.  Of course, with online delivery, and no need for physical inventory, that isn’t a certainty either.

While it isn’t just Blockbuster that is suffering, the corporation’s continued negative income for each of the past few years just goes to show that people just aren’t that interested in visiting that kind of store any more.  Blockbuster is attempting to launch its own line of DVD rental kiosks dubbed Blockbuster Express, and while the recognizable brand name may help them out, it may just be too little, too late.