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The end of an Era: Blockbuster stores are closing

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Be kind, please rewind,” the signs used to say in video stores, urging customers to return their rented VHS tapes spooled back to the beginning.

If only Blockbuster could rewind back to the 1990s.

That was the time when the video chain was the colossus of the movie-rental business, with stores in seemingly every city shopping district and suburban strip mall in America.

Visiting the store was a weekly rite for many people, who would show up on Friday evenings to check out the latest releases, navigating a crush of couples and families who had exactly the same idea — only to find out that the last copy of “Air Force One” or “The Lion King” had already been snagged.

That custom is now as gone as a world with three television networks, a UHF station’s late show and a Zenith Space Command.

On Wednesday, DISH Network, which purchased Blockbuster in 2011, announced it was closing the chain’s 300 remaining U.S. based retail stores, as well as its distribution centers.

“Consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment,” said DISH president and CEO Joseph P. Clayton in the press release about the closures. His statement echoes many from recent years about the migration of entertainment from physical objects — CDs, DVDs, books, games — to bits, bytes and pixels available on various screens and portable devices.

Blockbuster will continue its Blockbuster @Home brand to DISH customers, as well as its Blockbuster On Demand streaming service. And an additional 50 Blockbuster stores not owned by DISH will remain open for the time being.