Adam Jones of Soldotna loads up on the Sons of Anarchy DVDs during the Kenai Blockbuster's closing sale on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The store, which has been open for about 15 years, will close next month.

Adam Jones of Soldotna loads up on the Sons of Anarchy DVDs during the Kenai Blockbuster's closing sale on Wednesday, March 2, 2016. The store, which has been open for about 15 years, will close next month.

Kenai Blockbuster store to close

Kenai repeated a scene common in the Lower 48 about six years ago — customers raiding the DVDs at a closing Blockbuster location.

The Kenai store, located in the Safeway parking lot on the Kenai Spur Highway, began selling off its movie collection Wednesday in preparation to close. People milled through the aisles, their arms full of DVDs, some collecting seasons of TV shows and others scrounging for a favorite movie. While Kevin Daymude stood in one of the aisles, a woman proudly marched up and displayed a receipt: she’d spent more than $400 on movies in one purchase.

Daymude, the general manager of all the Blockbuster stores in Alaska, said she was a good friend of the staff and has boxes of the DVDs at home, like a private collection.

The store has been struggling for a few years and the managers did everything they could to save it Daymude said. Most of the employees will be transferred to the Soldotna store, which will stay open, he said.

“They’re doing well,” Daymude said. “The Soldotna store won’t be closing anytime soon.”

The situation was baffling, he said. The two stores had very similar demographic bases and the communities have similar Internet access, so Netflix has not affected the market too severely, Daymude said. Although the Safeway stores in both towns rent movies as well, they mostly rent new releases, while Blockbuster has more selection as well as games.

However, the Soldotna store has consistently performed better than the Kenai store over the years the two have been open. The managers have tried to determine what the factors are affecting the Kenai store but finally decided to close it, he said. What stock the store does not sell will be shipped to Anchorage or the other stores and sold there, he said.

“We’ll be here for about a month,” he said.

The news of the store closing brought out a crowd, though. Wednesday kept the staff busy — they even had to open 20 minutes early because people were there, eager to get in, Daymude said somewhat ruefully.

Alaska is one of the only states with active Blockbuster stores remaining. The corporation, which once employed more than 60,000 people in 9,000 stores worldwide, declared bankruptcy in 2010 due to competition from online streaming services like Netflix and on-demand services like Redbox. Blockbuster’s assets were purchased by Dish Network.

Today, 51 stores remain, each owned by a franchise that has licensed the name “Blockbuster Video.” Nine of those stores are in Alaska, owned by Canadian company Border Entertainment — eight, after the Kenai location closes.

Video stores have widely been on the decline nationwide since the premier of streaming services and standalone rental services. They are projected to continue to lose their market share as consumers keep opting for online media, according to a December 2015 analysis from research firm IBIS World.

Alaska is somewhat of an outlier because of the limitations on web service in the state.

Alaska remains among the nation’s 10 worst states for Internet access because of high prices, according to a January 2015 Federal Communications Commission report. Approximately 38 percent of Alaska’s total population has no Internet access. Approximately 17 percent of residents in urban areas of the state do not have access, while 81 percent of residents in rural areas have no access.

Barb’s Video on Main Street in Homer, an independent video rental store with 19,000 titles, will rent one new movie and one old movie or two old movies for $3 per day. Kordell Jones, the manager of Barb’s Videos, said curating the content and knowing the customers are important to the business’s success.

“Being in a small town doesn’t hurt,” Jones said. “We pick and choose our new releases very carefully. TV is big for us. (We try to) keep that very current for people so they don’t have to pay for five or six different subscription plans.”

Though the store did see a slight slowdown, he said the clientele has a natural variation — some customers come and go with the new TV seasons, and others are regulars. Still others who may be without Internet access come in because they can usually spare $3 for a few movies, he said.

Having store staff that knows the clientele personally makes it a better experience so they can suggest what a person might like, Jones said.

“You don’t want to tell the Jehovah’s Witness lovely woman who wants a new TV show to watch Game of Thrones,” Jones said. “We’re all movie buffs around here. The social factor is a really important thing, I’d say.”

Daymude said the rise of technology has taken something from the culture of video stores: the social interaction.

“It’s the social aspect of it,” Daymude said. “When you can come in to a video store, talk about the movie with the staff, see people … you don’t get that with Netflix.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Statewide COVID cases continue drop

On Monday, Alaska’s seven-day case rate per 100,000 people was 268.6.

Anne Zink, Alaska chief medical officer, participates in a briefing with Department of Health and Social Services officials to discuss the rise of the omicron variant of the corona virus, on Nov. 29, 2021. (screenshot)
Omicron ‘an animal of its own’

State health officials emphasize unknowns, prevention measures in wake of new coronavirus variant spread.

The Kenai Community Library health section is seen on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. The Kenai City Council voted during its Oct. 20 meeting to postpone the legislation approving grant funds after members of the community raised concerns about what books would be purchased with the money, as well as the agency awarding the grant. The council will reconsider the legislation on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council to consider library grant again

The council earlier voted to postpone the legislation after concerns were raised about what books would be purchased.

Rep. Chris Kurka, R-Wasilla, leaves the chambers of the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday, March 19, 2021, after an hour of delays concerning the wording on his mask. On Monday, Kurka announced he was running for governor in 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Wasilla rep announces gubernatorial bid

Kurka said he was motivated to run by a sense of betrayal from Dunleavy.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry carried the Together Tree, bound for the Alaska Governor’s Mansion, up from Wrangell where it was harvested after a brief delay due to some mechanical issues. (USCG photo / Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston)
Governor’s mansion tree arrives in Juneau

No weather or floating lines could stay these Coast Guardsmen about their task.

Forever Dance students practice for the “Forever Christmas” annual holiday variety show at Kenai Central High School on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Remembering that we’re all in this together’

Forever Dance celebrates the holiday spirit with Christmas showcase.

Image via the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation
Nikiski soil treatment facility moves ahead

The facility, located at 52520 Kenai Spur Highway, has drawn ire from community residents.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID case rate continues decline; 7 new deaths reported

The state reported 632 new COVID-19 cases in Alaska.

People sit on a float by Kendall Auto Group during the “Christmas Comes to Kenai” parade on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘It’s our biggest so far’

The holiday spirit is back in a big way with ‘Christmas Comes to Kenai’

Most Read