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Local video stores plan to close

September 28, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- Both Hagerstown-area Blockbuster stores have stopped renting movies and are slated to close as soon as they finish selling off inventory, store managers said.

The stores, at 1715 Dual Highway and 13130 Pennsylvania Ave., are franchises owned by Cecil White of Frederick, Md., said Megan Mason, assistant manager of the Dual Highway Blockbuster.

White's decision to close the stores had to do with his retirement and financial factors related to a declining market for video rentals, Mason said.

White did not return two phone calls Monday seeking comment.

Alaina Strasburg, manager of the Pennsylvania Avenue store, said the business has been struggling, and has been trying new ways to attract and keep customers.

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Part of that struggle has been due to the general economy, which has left people with less money for discretionary spending, Strasburg said. Traditional video rentals have also been hurt by the rise of Redbox, which rents DVDs from self-service kiosks, and Netflix, which rents them by mail, Strasburg said.

"We just aren't able to sustain the level we need to sustain in order to keep operating," she said.

Strasburg said the decrease in traffic coming through the store has been noticeable.

"People I used to see every week, I'm lucky if I see 'em once a month," she said.

White's decision to close the Hagerstown-area stores comes as Blockbuster Inc. is considering closing hundreds of its nonfranchise stores as part of a refinancing agreement.

Blockbuster has announced that it will evaluate 810 to 960 stories and possibly close them by the end of 2010, spokesman Randy Hargrove said last week.

That includes about 200 stores that already have closed, he said.

At the same time, Blockbuster plans to have more self-service vending machines in stores, Hargrove said.

He said three Pennsylvania stores in the Tri-State region -- in Waynesboro, Chambersburg and Shippensburg -- are company-owned and will continue operating.

Both Hagerstown-area stores stopped renting movies on Sept. 21 and are holding liquidation sales of their collections, managers said. They said movies less than six months old cost three for $20; those six months to a year old cost two for $10 or $6.99 each; and those more than a year old cost three for $10. Items for sale include DVDs, Blu-rays, games and TV shows.

Neither store has a definite closing date, and decisions on how long to stay open are being made on a week-by-week basis based on how much inventory is left, managers said.

Due dates still apply for items currently rented out, and the store managers encouraged customers to return items as quickly as possible to avoid having their credit cards charged for the full price.

To attract former Blockbuster customers, Wonder Book and Video at 607 Dual Highway is offering one free movie rental to customers who turn in their Blockbuster cards, store Manager Nichole Peteranecz said. That offer is good through Oct. 31, she said.

Blockbuster employees are referring customers seeking movie rentals in Hagerstown to either Wonder Book and Video or Hollywood Video at 1580 Wesel Blvd., Strasburg said.

Staff writer Andrew Schotz contributed to this story.

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