RIP Redbox: DVD Kiosk Pioneer Shutting Down in Bankruptcy Liquidation

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RIP Redbox: DVD Kiosk Pioneer Shutting Down in Bankruptcy Liquidation

As if fans of physical media needed one more gloomy headline to brighten up their week, today comes the confirmation many have been expecting: One of the last major purveyors of DVDs and Blu-ray discs in the country is shutting down, in the form of the iconic Redbox. The more than 24,000 still existing Redbox disc rental kiosks across the U.S. will cease operations immediately, as Redbox has landed on the chipping block following the Chapter 7 bankruptcy liquidations of parent company Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment.

We wouldn’t blame you for raising an eyebrow there, if you never learned that Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment–yes, the purveyors of the classic self-help book franchise–were the owners of the Redbox brand. The headline from 2022 that Redbox was being acquired by the company for $370 million still feels like some pandemic-adjacent fever dream, but it really did happen. At the time, Redbox was already (unsurprisingly) struggling badly, even as it attempted to broaden its services into digital film rentals on its own streaming service in addition to physical disc rentals from its famous kiosks sprinkled throughout grocery stores, pharmacies and malls. Now it will share the fate of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, whose more than 1,000 employees have all also been terminated. Their creditors reportedly include the likes of Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Walgreens and Walmart.

Redbox had a long, slow decline since its revenue peaked at an all-time high of $1.97 billion back in 2013. At its height, the service operated more than 43,000 kiosks around the country, almost twice what it had in operation more recently, filling those friendly devices with DVDs, Blu-rays and videogame discs for various systems. Its decline and eventual closure can’t help but draw comparison to the shuttering of the DVD wing of Netflix, another company that built its iconic image around delivering discs to your door in similarly red sleeves.

There are many questions swirling around the liquidation of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, including the fate of other properties such as the free streaming service Crackle, but I personally find myself wondering more about the fate of various assets of the Redbox empire itself. Where, for instance, have discs for Redbox kiosks been stored over the years, and what will happen to these treasure troves of physical media? Will Redbox kiosk units and their entire contents be ticketed straight for local landfills? As with the slow destruction of the Netflix DVD library, this stands to be the greatest tragedy of Redbox’s passing: Just what is going to happen to all of those discs? Because take it from us; they’re not going to have a big yard sale with millions of DVDs marked down to 10 cents each. Chances are high that the vast majority of this collection is headed for imminent destruction, just another instance of how we have failed to preserve our pre-digital media era.

RIP Redbox. You were never as genuinely useful as the corner video store was in its heyday, but at least you were conveniently located next to the grocery checkout.

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