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Blockbuster Plans To Close 1 Store In Alaska, Taking Total Number Down To 5


A big moment is happening next month in North Pole, Alaska - population about 2,200.


There will be one less place to rent a movie.

CHANG: A Blockbuster is closing.

MARTIN: You heard that right - Blockbuster. Remember big blue signs, lots of movies? We used to rent movies before the Internet took over. At one time, there were 9,000 Blockbusters in the U.S.

CHANG: Today there are only six. One is in Oregon, and the other five are in Alaska.

MARTIN: And when the Blockbuster closes at North Pole, people like Taylor Neininger will have to adapt. Every week for the past seven years, she's taken her family there to pick out some movies.

TAYLOR NEININGER: So the kids - as soon as we walk in, they're running. They know where the kids movies are. And so their excitement to go is pretty fun to watch.

CHANG: Neininger says her internet is too slow for the likes of Netflix or Amazon.

NEININGER: We've had a lot of issues with the streaming - just a lot of buffering. When it sort of buffers a lot, we kind of get tired of waiting.

BRYCE WARD: One of the reasons why the Blockbuster stores have been around in Alaska or continue to be around in Alaska is the Internet's not as fast up here. And a lot of folks like to just go down and pick out a movie.

MARTIN: That's North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward. He's among those who still like to browse in an actual store.

WARD: Usually when my wife and I have picked out a movie, it's taken us longer to pick out a movie - just walking up and down, looking at all the options - than it has to actually watch it (laughter).

MARTIN: Ward says the Internet speed in North Pole has improved, so it was not a surprise that their local Blockbuster will soon close.

CHANG: We reached out to the owner of Alaska's remaining Blockbusters. Alan Payne turned down our request for an interview, but he did tell us that despite thousands of customers each week, traffic in his stores is declining.

MARTIN: In an email, he writes this. We've loved serving the great people of Alaska for the past 30 years and will continue to do so in our remaining stores as long as we can.

CHANG: For her part, Taylor Neininger says she's willing to drive farther to Fairbanks to use her Blockbuster membership card.

NEININGER: Fairbanks is about 11 miles away, so there'll still be that. It's not the same, I don't think, but I'm sure we will go.

MARTIN: And she sighs. Eventually she will have to start streaming.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEON INDIAN'S "HIT PARADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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