High Streets Initiative · 17 September 2018

Deadpool 2’s Blockbuster revival shows power of authenticity in the streaming age

Deadpool 2
The Blockbuster pop-up is a replica of the rental chain’s first ever store

To celebrate the DVD and Blu-ray release of Deadpool 2, a temporary, pop-up version of iconic video rental store Blockbuster has opened in East London.

Consumers loyal to Blockbuster in its 90s heyday who kept hold of their classic blue membership card will be rewarded with a limited edition VHS sleeve of Deadpool 2, complete with digital download code.

The pop-up itself, on Bethnal Green Road, is a recreation of the original chain that first opened in 1989 but with just one film gracing its shelves.

There are 1989 VHS sleeves to give away in total, marking the year the first Blockbuster opened on Walworth Street, Kennington.

At its peak, Blockbuster Video boasted 9,000 stores worldwide with 528 in the UK alone. However, the change in the home entertainment landscape – not least in the rise and rise of Netflix – saw all stores shut from 2010 onwards. The final UK branch shut in December 2013.

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One sole Blockbuster Video remains in the world today in Bend, Oregon, a town in the USA where many residents struggle to get internet, with the store recently becoming something of a tourist attraction.

Is your blue Blockbuster membership card still lying around?

Despite Blockbuster seemingly dead and buried, the publicity generated by the Deadpool 2 campaign highlights an increasingly prevalent belief among consumers – physical media matters, and we want more of it.

Age of authenticity

Public polling ahead of the Deadpool 2 release confirmed the mystique that remains behind Blockbuster in the age of streaming. 61% of adults in Greater London said they would “love” to see Blockbuster make a comeback.

Enthusiasm was even higher in the 16-24 age bracket, where eight in ten digital-natives wanted to see a return of the rental store. For those who didn’t experience popular culture in the 1980s and 1990s, the idea of high street store distributing physical media appears more exciting than ever before.

Appealing to nostalgia has emerged as a popular marketing strategy in recent years, particularly towards millennials and younger consumers who are becoming fatigued by the pace of digital narratives. As proven by Deadpool 2 and Blockbuster Video, authenticity is one of the most powerful tools a brand can deploy.

As far as marketing campaigns go, it’s an effective one – playing on the memories of consumers and film fans and offering something tangible in return. But as retailers look around for solutions to falling high street footfall, should we really be looking backwards?

Blockbuster is open today (Monday 17 September) and tomorrow (Tuesday 18 September) at 133-135 Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and has previously worked as a content editor in local government and the ecommerce industry.

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