Dish to close rest of its Blockbuster stores in U.S.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Blockbuster, once the ubiquitous king of the video rental business, will close its remaining national stores in early January, the company’s owner, Dish Network, announced Wednesday.

The end of an era comes as consumers increasingly move away from renting physical discs to online downloads, Dish said. The company said it would shutter about 300 stores nationwide as well as end its DVD-by-mail operations. A web search found about three Blockbuster stores in operation in metro Atlanta. Fifty franchised stores will remain open in the U.S.

About 2,800 people nationwide who work in Blockbuster’s stores and DVD distribution centers will lose their jobs, according to Dish Network.

“This is not an easy decision, yet consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment,” Joseph Clayton, Dish’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release. “Despite our closing of the physical distribution elements of the business, we continue to see value in the Blockbuster brand, and we expect to leverage that brand as we continue to expand our digital offerings.”

Blockbuster and its blue ticket-stub logo were a familiar part of the American landscape for more than a decade. But competitors such as Netflix chipped away at its prominence, first through video-by-mail operations and then by streaming movies and TV shows directly to computers, DVD/blu-ray players and televisions.

The shift has been a boon for Netflix Inc., which now boasts 31 million subscribers to its Internet video service and another 7.1 million DVD-by-mail customers. The company’s success has given Netflix a market value of $20 billion.

Blockbuster absorbed huge losses. It closed thousands of its stores before landing in bankruptcy court three years ago. Dish bought Blockbuster’s remnants for about $234 million in 2011 and then tried to mount a challenge to Netflix.

But the Englewood, Colo., satellite-TV provider couldn’t wring a profit from Blockbuster either, prompting even more store closures.