October 19, 1985 First Blockbuster store opens
On this day in 1985, the first Blockbuster video-rental store opens, in Dallas, Texas. At a time when most video stores were small-scale operations featuring a limited selection of titles, Blockbuster opened with some 8,000 tapes displayed on shelves around the store and a computerized check-out process. The first store was a success and Blockbuster expanded rapidly, eventually becoming one of the world’s largest providers of in-home movies and game entertainment.
Blockbuster was founded by David Cook, who had previously owned a business that provided computer software services to the oil and gas industry in Texas. Cook saw the potential in the video-rental business and after opening the first Blockbuster in 1985, he added three more stores the following year. In 1987, he sold part of the business to a group of investors that included Wayne Huizenga, founder of Waste Management, Inc., the world’s biggest garbage disposal company. Later that year, Cook left Blockbuster and Huizenga assumed control of the company and moved its headquarters to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Under Huizenga’s leadership, Blockbuster embarked on an aggressive expansion plan, snapping up existing video store chains and opening scores of new stores. By 1988, Blockbuster was America’s leading video chain, with some 400 stores. By the early 1990s, Blockbuster had launched its 1,000th store and expanded into the overseas market.
In 1994, Blockbuster was acquired by the media giant Viacom Inc., whose brands include MTV and Nickelodeon. In the mid-1990s, the digital video disc (DVD) made its debut and in 1997, Netflix, an online DVD rental service, was founded. Around that same time, the e-commerce giant Amazon.com launched a video and DVD store. Blockbuster faced additional competition from the rise of pay-per-view and on-demand movie services, through which viewers could pay for and watch movies instantly in their own homes. In 2004, Blockbuster split off from Viacom. That same year, Blockbuster launched an online DVD rental service to compete with Netflix. As of 2008, Blockbuster had some 8,000 stores around the world and was well known for its advertising campaigns, which included the long-running slogan “Make it a Blockbuster Night.” In 2006, the company, headquartered once again in Dallas, had global revenues of more than $5.5 billion.