Blockbuster closes hundreds of stores; Alaska locations spared

Benjamin S. Brasch

With owner DishTV announcing Wednesday that it will close its last 300 Blockbuster stores in the United States, Alaskans can pop an new bag of popcorn and relax.

All 13 retail stores in Alaska will stay open, including the four in Anchorage, because they are franchises owned by Border Entertainment of Austin, Tex., said Alan Payne, president of the business. He was reached by phone at his office in Austin.

The stores are autonomous of corporate Blockbuster, which is a good thing, he said.

"We run our business completely different from the way they do, and that's why we're still open, to be frank," he said.

Payne said his Alaskan stores offer up to 15,000 titles to the almost 30,000 customers who walk in per week.

"We recognize our strengths, we acknowledge our weaknesses, and we play to our strengths," he said. "And because of that we have an extremely large customer base in Alaska."

Rewind to five years ago, he said, and business was better than it is now.

Payne cited streaming movies, online rentals and the vending machine Redbox for the loss of business over the years.

He said even today, movie rentals are still more successful in Alaska than the Lower 48 because of the state's lack of inexpensive Internet options with the bandwidth needed to stream full movies.

Fast forward to late January 2014: when most of the Blockbuster corporate stores will close, Payne will own 26 of the 52 Blockbusters left in America, he said.

Meaning Alaska will have one-fourth of all Blockbusters in the nation, he said.

In order to keep the iconic name and logo, Payne said he will continue to pay Blockbuster fees.

"We've been trying to figure out what to do when the day came, to make the transition smooth for customers, and hopefully they'll never know the difference."

Reach Benjamin Brasch at bbrasch@adn.com or 257-4349. Twitter: twitter.com/ben_brasch


By BENJAMIN S. BRASCH
bbrasch@adn.com