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Charting the Rise and Fall of Blockbuster in One Videographic

The iconic video-rental franchise grew fast and fell apart even faster.

Blockbuster’s rise and fall has become a regularly cited cautionary tale about the importance of respecting your competitors — in Blockbuster’s case, a web-based video-by-mail startup called Netflix — but it is also an instructive reminder that the size of a franchise network does not always correlate to long-term viability. 

That second lesson is demonstrated elegantly in a videographic from V1 Analytics, which uses data from Blockbuster’s public financial reporting to show the franchise’s massive expansion throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s and its precipitous collapse in the second half of the 2000s. 

Today, a single franchisee-owned Blockbuster location continues to operate in Portland — down from 5,734 units at the franchise’s height. 

While the rise of Netflix is typically blamed for the death of the brick-and-mortar video-rental industry at large, it’s worth noting that Family Video, a relatively small competitor to Blockbuster in the ‘90s and ‘00s, is still operating more than 700 units, suggesting that Blockbuster’s demise cannot be attributed entirely to external factors.