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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Lee Grimsditch

Blockbuster: Why video rental giant sunk by Netflix won't disappear from Manchester

If you're a child of the '80s or '90s, a trip to the Blockbuster video store was a staple ritual in planning your weekend entertainment.

The massive video rental chain was a one-stop shop where you could hire a video while picking up your popcorn and sweet treats to enjoy a cinematic experience in the comfort of your own living room.

At the height of its popularity in 2004, there were more than 9,000 Blockbuster stores around the globe with over 500 in the UK alone.

READ MORE: 15 venues Mancunian kids will remember celebrating a birthday at

Its blue and yellow store branding emblazoned with its chunky 'BLOCKBUSTER' typeface boomed across high streets and were an instantly recognisable and familiar sight.

However, only a few years on from the height of its peak popularity, global markets and technological advances brought a movie monster crashing down.

The financial crash of 2008 dealt a crippling blow coupled with the emergence of new technologies, such as 'video on demand' and Netflix's mail order service, made even leaving the front door to watch a movie obsolete.

In 2013, Blockbuster went into administration and by December that same year, and unable to find a buyer for the business, the remaining stores were closed.

That would be it, you might think.

But maybe it's the affection - the warm, nostalgic glow people who grew up with the brand still feel, has meant its never quite gone away. Its ghost is everywhere.

Now a video-themed cocktail bar calling itself ' Blockbusters NQ ' is set to open in Oldham Street this spring.

The branding of the long abandoned Blockbuster store in Fallowfield retail park in Manchester remains intact (Richard Gottfried (

A bar spokesperson told the M.E.N: "Essentially we will be a video-themed cocktail bar with a hidden bar in the basement.

"We aren’t giving much more out than that at the moment - keeping it mysterious until we are ready to open.

"But there will be some surprises in store!"

The instantly recognisable typeface, logo, and blue and yellow store colours are back along with a "coming soon" sign on the frosted window that tantalisingly obscures the goings on inside.

The remnants of many of those stores, and their generous square feet of space, are still with us to this day.

Nostalgia enthusiast, Richard Gottfried, who writes a blog called The Ham and Egger Files ( ) made it his mission during one of the lockdowns to track down the remains of as many Blockbuster stores as he could.

With a particular interest in lost high street brands, Richard told the Manchester Evening News : "You can still find the remnants of Blockbuster video stalls on high streets and retail parks.

"In Fallowfield, on the retail park the abandoned stall is still there and the sign is still up on the marquee sign at the front of the park.

The Blockbuster sign remains on the marquee sign outside Fallowfield retail park (Richard Gottfried (

"We made a bit of a challenge to ourselves to see how many of these stores we could get to and visit.

"We were amazed, we've actually found and been to 27 former locations that still have got the quick-drop box or the sign is still up outside, or there's a ghost sign on the front of the store."

On his blog, Richard writes about spending a lot of the last two years reminiscing about 'the good old days' before the coronavirus pandemic hit the planet.

Inside the abandoned Blockbuster store in Fallowfield retail park. Quick-drop box and iconic blue and yellow decor remain intact (Richard Gottfried (

A marketer by profession, he's fascinated by finding the remnants of the defunct brand, adding: "In Clacton on Sea (Essex), you've got the ghost sign on the front of the store but you've also got the quick-drop box.

"When you go inside it's a charity shop, but if you stripped out all the charity shop stuff, the reception desk, the counter, the walls it still looks like a Blockbuster video, it's just nuts. It's one of those crazy, quirky things."

Another piece of Blockbuster nostalgia that's caught Richard's eye lately is the mysterious appearance of a new store-front in Manchester's Northern Quarter that appears to be breathing new life into the brand.

Mysterious Blockbusters NQ store with 'coming soon' sign on Oldham Street in Manchester's Northern Quarter (Richard Gottfried (

Richard is intrigued and has managed to take a few snaps that offer a hint of what's to come.

He said: "I don't know who is actually behind it and it does seem to be quite mysterious.

"I've tried to find out a bit more. They've done a little bit on Instagram but there's not much beyond that.

"Every time I've gone past Oldham Street I've gone down to have a look to see if there are any updates.

"It looks like they've done a good job of looking like an old Blockbuster on the inside as well. The colour scheme looks correct and everything.

"It's a quirky speakeasy idea isn't it, to go for an old video shop. It really does tick all those nostalgia boxes.

Bar inside the mysterious Blockbusters NQ store said to be opening soon in Manchester's Northern Quarter (Richard Gottfried (

"And from what I can tell there's an upstairs part where you can see a bar and shelves that are going to have video tapes and stuff like that in it.

"I do believe there's actually a downstairs part to it as well. So it's upstairs cocktail bar and downstairs is actually a late night bar with what looks like a nightclub section to it."

He added: "I'm not sure if they're going to go as far as doing pop-up cinema or anything like that. I don't know if it's purely drinking."

The company co-opting the Blockbuster name serves as a testament to a genuinely iconic brand and aesthetic that resonated with so many in its era, so much so it never completely vanished from our minds or city streets.

And while the original Blockbuster video may have been defeated by the new giants like Netflix, it's interesting to note that one last remaining store still remains open in Bend in the US state of Oregon.

A last outpost perhaps, but would we feel the same affection for Netflix or Amazon Prime Video if they were seen off in the same way?

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