Alaska Still Has Blockbuster Stores And They’re Apparently “Quite Busy”

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Although there were once about 9,000 Blockbuster Video stores scattered around the country, there are now only 10 or so remaining. Of those, seven are located in Alaska. And apparently, the video rental business up there in the cold, wintry north isn’t so bad.

The licensee-owner of those stores — who also owns one in Texas — tells The Washington Post that loyal customers keep coming back.

“A lot of them are still quite busy,” Alan Payne told WaPo. “If you went in there on a Friday night you’d be shocked at the number of people.” Indeed, more than half of Blockbuster’s revenue is generated during a six-hour period, he adds.

Part of the reason? Winters are long, cold, and dark in Alaska, and keep people holed up inside. To wit: The most profitable store is in Fairbanks, where temperatures can hit -50° F.

In addition, internet access is pretty expensive compared to the rest of the U.S., and most data packages available aren’t unlimited. That could make a Netlix binge pretty pricey.

To that end, 20% of sales in his stores come from rentals of TV shows, he says, “from the binge watchers.”

He’s also managed to keep his stores afloat — and employ 80 people in the process — because unlike Blockbuster corporate, he refused to eliminate late fees altogether. But instead of sending out invoices to customers like Blockbuster used to, his stores collect fees whenever customers happen to come back to rent something.

Though the end may be inevitable someday, Payne says the stores will “just keep plodding on” as long as they can.

“There’s not a whole lot of retail businesses that people go to because they truly want to,” Payne said. “When you went on a Friday or Saturday night to rent a movie … that was just fun.”