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New entertainment center on the block
by Jessica Garcia
Dec 04, 2008 | 997 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Blockbuster Media assistant manager Sarah Martin demonstrates her store's "Guitar Hero World Tour" video game.
Blockbuster Media assistant manager Sarah Martin demonstrates her store's "Guitar Hero World Tour" video game.
A mayor, a chief executive officer and a Blockbuster employee once aspired to be a three-member rock band. It didn’t blossom into a musical career for the trio, but it was good for a laugh and a photo opportunity.

A recent “Rock Band 2” session at Blockbuster Media on Northtowne Lane in Reno was just a demonstration of the video store chain’s new facelift. The Reno-Sparks market currently is the second test area that is transforming Blockbuster from a video store to an entertainment center concept.

The typical Blockbuster blue and yellow movie ticket logo has turned into a simple “Blockbuster Media” sign on the outside, and on the inside there’s more to offer movie rental customers.

Jim Keyes, Blockbuster chairman and chief executive officer, said the new model is more economical for families who want entertainment for cheap.

“More families are becoming value-conscious,” Keyes said, adding that the home theater is becoming a vital alternative to going to the movies where customers are paying increasing ticket and concession prices.

Reno and Sparks Blockbusters have been remodeled to include a video game consul and sofas for people to try out games and a concession stand that offers popcorn, milkshakes and drinks.

Even the racks for the movies have changed.

“We’ve changed the cosmetics,” Keyes said. “The racks are lower and brighter. We’ve removed a significant amount of older products” to make room for wider aisles.

The stores have even added flat-screen televisions for movie previews.

These changes are making Blockbuster more competitive with other businesses that offer convenient movie rentals, such as Red Box or Netflix, Keyes said.

“For a family of four to go to the movies today, it might cost $40 to $50,” Keyes said.

To choose a couple of movies and buy popcorn and drinks and take them home would reduce the cost at least by half.

The new Blockbuster also sells Blu-Ray players and video game consules, including Wii and Playstation, as well as all the equipment for the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band games. This week, the company announced 500 of its stores would become outlets for buying tickets for concerts put on by Live Nation Inc.

“We have a solution across all the platforms,” Keyes said.

Reno Mayor Bob Cashell enjoyed the store’s new video game systems offering so much, he bought a new Playstation 3 for his grandchildren. A Blockbuster employee even helped him pick out a few Madden football games according to their interests.

“This is also great for Reno-Sparks,” Cashell said. “It’s something the people can really enjoy, it’s affordable, and I’m very happy it’s here.”

Even the employees are having to train heavily to become movie experts, Keyes said. Customer service is becoming vital to help customers choose films based on their interests.

“(The employees) have to love movies and games,” Keyes said.

If Blockbuster does well in the Reno-Sparks area, the retailer will take its new model nationwide.

“This is a very good market … and we had the opportunity to reinvent ourselves,” Keyes said.

Scott Kelley of Reno was browsing the Northtowne store during Keyes’ presentation and was excited by the prospect of northern Nevada serving as a test run for a product that could go national.

“I think the new direction of Blockbuster is headed by not marketing their store as not just one to rent videos but to try out different types of multimedia is a good idea,” Kelley said. “It seems to be combining technology with the experience of movies and that’s a good idea.”

Kelley said if a concept does well in Nevada, it’s likely to succeed elsewhere.

“We have a pretty diverse culture here, a pretty diverse group of people and if something does well, it can be marketed anywhere, so I hope other businesses do the same,” he said.
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