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Auburn’s Blockbuster closing Jan. 22

Store shutdown signals end of era for video rentals in community
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - The closeout sale at Bell Road’s Blockbuster has started, signaling the end of an era for movie rentals in Auburn. Blockbuster was the final destination in town for Auburn residents who wanted a brick-and-mortar movie rental location to make their selections in. With Netflix, Redbox and streaming Internet options broadening the choices for movie watchers, Blockbuster has been reducing its number of store locations for several years. And Auburn is the latest to be put on the closure list. Customers outside the Auburn location Wednesday said they were disappointed to see the Bell Road store closing. Its last day will be Jan. 22. But they also said they were acutely aware that the store chain was having problems and closing locations in a continuing economic downturn. “It’s the pits,” Tammi Pepper of Applegate said. “I can’t believe it. But, then again, I guess I can.” Pepper said she was told that if she wanted to continue renting movies, she could do so at the Rocklin Blockbuster – something she doesn’t intend to do because it is too far away. “I’ll go to the Redbox or buy movies,” Pepper said. “This should do wonders for Best Buy or Costco, who sell DVDs.” Pepper said she was hit with a double-whammy Wednesday, when she also dropped in for frozen yogurt at Uncle J’s – a nearby North Auburn business – and found a sign on the door stating it had already closed. Blockbuster arrived in Auburn about 15 years ago, and eventually established two locations. The other was at the Bel Air Shopping Center. With access to newer DVDs as well as VCR tapes, the rapidly growing corporation soon forced “mom and pop” video stores in the Auburn area to close. But Blockbuster began to suffer losses after expanding to more than 4,000 locations and then feeling pressure from streaming media providers like Netflix. The Texas-based multinational cut costs and when that failed to stanch the flow of red ink, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2010. Last April, Dish Network won a bidding war for Blockbuster, paying $320 million. But Dish Network also announced at the time that it would only keep 500 stores. As the year ended, it turned out that Auburn’s location at Quartz Drive and Bell Road would not be part of Blockbuster’s future plans. Calls to Dish Network for comment were not returned. Charles Wilkerson of Colfax said he may be getting more DVD movies from the library to watch. A visitor to the store Wednesday, Wilkerson added that he doesn’t want to spend more for speedier internet access that would allow him to stream Netflix. “The internet is good for some things and bad for others,” Wilkerson said. “I think this is terrible. This was the only game in town and I really don’t know what I’m going to do for movies.” Inside Blockbuster, employees referred questions to the regional office, which referred reporters questions to corporate headquarters. Linda Cramer of Meadow Vista said she was heartened to learn that at least one of the employees would be transferred to a Sacramento Blockbuster store. As for her future movie choices, she’s moving to the Web. “I used to come here regularly and I can’t say it’s unexpected,” Cramer said. “But we just got a new TV with video streaming so we wouldn’t have been coming here in the future.”