Cinema and theme parks go very closely together. Both are shows to have fun and have fun. Disney it has Disney World in the United States and Disneyland in Europe. Universal has its Universal Studios franchise in Hollywood, Florida, Japan and Singapore. AND Warner Bros it operates parks in Australia, Spain and the United Arab Emirates. These are just three examples of the close relationship of the entertainment industry and how much cinema gives of itself. No wonder Blockbuster he would like his own amusement park.
Today Blockbuster it is a memory of times past. Technically there is only one establishment under this name in Bend, a town in Oregon, United States. Establishment that continues to use the brand but is far from what was the great chain of video stores Blockbuster. This last stronghold is visited by curious and moviegoers every year and they even made a documentary about it titled The Last Blockbuster (2020). But at the time, Blockbuster it was synonymous with watching movies at home.
When the only way to see movies was through movie theaters or on television, VHS arrived, a technology that made it possible to record a movie on cassette tape. Its acronym says it all: VHS, Video Home System. And the Home thing was so verbatim that VHS created an industry that consisted of renting movies to watch at home. Those of us who comb gray hair keep a fond memory of these establishments, either by renting VHS tapes, DVD, Blu-Ray or video games in these formats.
And in America, one name rose above the rest. In the United States and around the world. Blockbuster became the equivalent of video stores to McDonald’s in fast food or Coca Cola in sugary sodas. In 2004, it had more than 9,000 stores around the world. Your key to success? Offer a broader catalog than the competition and that was constantly renewed. That and that you could rent the titles for longer.
Entrance of the last Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon
Why not a theme park?
Blockbuster made a name for himself in the movie industry. More than anything because through the rental of videotapes, the sector discovered a vein with which to recoup part of its investments in films that perhaps had not performed well at the box office. There are cases of films that have even generated more money thanks to the rent than from their release in theaters. A curious example is Street Fighter (1994). Starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and the mythical Raul Julia, among others, this film continues to make money to Capcom thanks to its rental in video stores, television broadcasts and, in recent years, its availability on streaming platforms.
The point is that Blockbuster it became part of the culture of the late 20th century. Renting movies at a Blockbuster came naturally to many. At a time, it should be remembered, when there was no Netflix no company. Either you bought the VHS on duty (later DVD and Blu-Ray) or you rented it. And for this you had to wait half a year from its premiere in theaters. Add to that that the initial price tag for VHS was out of reach for most. Hence the success of the video store as such.
And if something makes money, in the United States they are experts in getting more out of it. Returning to the beginning of this article, the large film production companies have their business diversified beyond the making of films. And the theme park is one of its mainstays, with millions of visitors willing to ride its attractions and recreate moments and scenes from their favorite movies. Blockbuster he wanted to get on that car.
Concept of what would be Blockbuster Park. Source: Wolfberg Alvarez & Partners
2,500 acres to Blockbuster Park
Briefly. Blockbuster It was born in 1985. Its golden age will last until 1997. It is at that time that this chain of video stores became an icon of the culture of the late twentieth century. From there, the history of this franchise becomes somewhat erratic, its direction is changing, bad decisions are made, the public ends up getting tired, it arises Netflix and, in addition, it is passed from hand to hand after several acquisitions. Finally, Blockbuster it disappears as such in 2015, leaving only one establishment standing that maintains the name but has nothing to do with the owners of the brand.
So let’s go back to the 90s. Blockbuster it is a complete success. In part, thanks to the business techniques of Wayne huizenga and from your associate John melk. Initially dedicated to waste management, he became interested in Blockbuster in 1987 when it had only 19 video stores. His entry into the franchise is part of his takeoff, buying competing establishments throughout the United States. Some say that at one point, he bought a new video store every day.
As well. One of the ideas of Huizenga back in 1994 it was to create a theme park under the brand Blockbuster. The complex was to have an amusement park, a water park and a sports stadium. All this on 2,500 acres on Interstate 75 in Florida, as an article from the Los Angeles Times explains. The idea was to create a theme park for tourists comparable to the successful one Disney world.
But things did not go well. The more than 30 million dollars of the time invested by Wayne huizenga in the project. Money invested not only in the construction of the park but in obtaining the necessary permits to build in a natural area near the Everglades and that had against those who lived there. On paper, the park was going to feed 16,600 people and generate $ 64 million in taxes alone, but these promises did not change the bad press the theme park had among the local population.
They even baptized it with a derogatory name, Wayne’s World, in reference to its owner and making a play on words with Disney world and the 1992 hilarious comedy of the same name.
Facilities of Blockbuster Golf & Games, the little brother of what was to be Blockbuster Park
A theme park that was not
We know that Blockbuster Park was never built. For the bad of some and the good of others. But what was this theme park dedicated to cinema going to be like? To the movies and sports, actually, since to begin with I was going to have a baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins with about 45,000 locations. And a hockey stadium for the Florida Panthers with 20,000 seats. Not to mention golf and tennis facilities.
From there, the complex was going to have its own theme park dedicated to cinema, studios to shoot films, television, record and broadcast music and radio, a virtual reality center, movie theaters, shops, restaurants, facilities. aquatic, etc. A very ambitious plan, come on.
The reluctance of the local population influenced in the end that the park was not built. The initial investment had already contributed to this. And we must add the technical and environmental complications of building in the Everglades during the government of Bill Clinton, aware of the protection of the environment. Returning to the Los Angeles Times article on the subject, those responsible for Blockbuster They hoped that the relevant authorities would give them permission to start building in the next 14 months (the article was published in July 1994).
Finally, that permission was not necessary. That same year, Viacom purchase Blockbuster at a price of 8.4 billion dollars. Interestingly, the previous year both companies had had contacts for a reverse purchase in a kind of merger that did not take place. With the acquisition, the project stalled and was eventually canceled.
Abandoned sign for an old Blockbuster in Dubuque, Iowa Credit: trebomb / Flickr
What happened to Blockbuster Golf & Games?
Blockbuster It is a very well known brand. Less well known was this failed project to create a large theme amusement park that exploited the video store brand to create sports facilities and other businesses near or far from the cinema. And sometimes the idea of Blockbuster Park, which failed to materialize, is often confused with Blockbuster Golf & Games, his little brother.
Blockbuster Golf & Games it did come true. What’s more, those who were in it keep a pleasant memory. It is a reduced version of what Blockbuster Park wanted to be. It opened in 1994 and closed in 2001. Located in Sunrise, Florida, it is now owned by the Swedish IKEA franchise. In its facilities you could find arcade machines with video games, batting cages for baseball fans and a golf practice range. What was said. A reduced version of what was to be Blockbuster Park.
Another similar idea that was not carried out was Blockbuster Block Party. It was about creating entertainment complexes but for adults, rather than for the whole family. Restaurants, game rooms, a laser tag installation …
This is basically the story of the Blockbuster theme park and other similar projects that wanted to expand and diversify the business of the most popular chain of video stores in the world. Who knows if if he had been successful he would have made Blockbuster was still standing. Of course, evolving to current trends with platforms such as Netflix. Precisely, it began by renting VHS and DVD movies by mail and today it is an online platform. Blockbuster He tried it in his later years but was late and bad.