Box it Up

Houston's a DVD battleground: Can Blockbuster survive by becoming a better Redbox?

Houston's a DVD battleground: Can Blockbuster survive by becoming a better Redbox?

Remember the painful process of renting movies from those ancient Blockbuster storefronts? Simply setting up a membership was such a maze of red tape — not only did you have to present a driver's license, but a laundry list of other credentials was also required, from paycheck stubs to recommendations from high school Algebra teachers.

The charade was like applying for a green card just to snag a deluxe-edition copy of Shrek 2.

Those days are over: Introducing Blockbuster Express DVD rental kiosks, which are making their debut in Texas with the replacement of 105 kiosks at Tom Thumb and Randalls stores in Houston, Dallas and Austin. There will be 33 kiosks in the Houston area. Offering the same convenience of $1 per night DVD-rental as Redbox, the initiative represents Blockbuster's latest desperate move to keep up in the competitive movie-rental market.

Will people give the new kiosks a chance? They're aiming to offer amenities not found in ordinary movie vending machines. The Blockbuster booths carry more than 950 DVDs, more than twice the typical number of competing kiosks. Since Blockbuster acquired DVDPlay kiosks in December 2009, it owns the largest DVD library in the industry.

Another part of the Blockbuster push is it's letting customers return DVDs two hours later than other brands (without getting charged for an extra day), and to any Blockbuster Express location. The movies can also be ordered at blockbusterexpress.com, in an attempt to combine the convenience of Redbox and Netflix.

Best of all? No membership process required.

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