Blockbuster Checks in for a Makeover

Movie-rental company says its success depends on its adaptability

Blockbuster may close as many as a thousand stores across the country by the end of next year, but the company's CEO said it's not the end of the road.

Dallas-based Blockbuster Inc. lost $116.8 million in the third quarter. But CEO Jim Keyes said the movie-rental company is "absolutely not" on its deathbed.

"It really depends on us and our ability to adapt," he said.

Netflix Inc., which delivers movies by mail, and Redbox Automated Retail LLC, which offers $1 DVD rentals at more than 17,000 standalone kiosks, have both challenged Blockbuster in recent years.

Chris White, of Greenstone Capital Management, said the market is "fiercely competitive." He follows the company for a stock fund that owns Blockbuster shares.

"By the time they began to ramp up, the competition had a significant advantage," he said.

Keyes said Blockbuster was a little slow to change but is now ready to fix that.

The company has set up a movie-by-mail service to compete with Netflix and is also set to take on Redbox's kiosks.

Blockbuster will install 10,000 similar kiosks across the country by the end of the next year that will also have $1 rentals. A few of the kiosks are already in North Texas, and more are on the way in the next few months.

The rental company is also moving online, offering Blockbuster on Demand through the Internet directly to Samsung TVs and Blu-ray and DVD players. Customers can order movies at home with a few clicks of the remote.

Keyes said streaming to televisions, phones and computers is Blockbuster's future.

"Blockbuster is not about the physical store. That's not who we are," he said.

But the company said its stores are also a critical part of its future. Despite closures, thousands of store locations will stay open.

"The store is just one method of delivering convenient access to media entertainment," Keyes said.

As it moves to reinvent itself, Blockbuster is also expanding into sales of TVs, DVD players, TIVO recorders and portable devices that plug into movie download stations in the store.

"Cool will come. But it only comes when you do a better job of delivering what the customer wants," Keyes said.

White said Keyes has time to turn the company around.

"It looks like bankruptcy risk is off the table for a couple years," he said. "He's got a window here; if he can go back and execute, I think they'll do very well.

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