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Blockbuster changes movie-rental prices

The chain, bought by Dish Network last month, switches away from three-day rentals. It will charge $1.99 or $2.99 for the first day of rental and 99 cents for each additional day.

May 28, 2011|By Ben Fritz, Los Angeles Times

The days of the multi-day movie rental are officially over.

Blockbuster announced Friday that it is switching to single-day pricing in a bid to better challenge its fast-growing rival Redbox. It's the first significant change at the struggling rental and retail chain since it was acquired by Dish Network Corp. in April for $320 million and a longtime executive of the satellite broadcaster was put in charge.

The first day of rental will cost $2.99 for new releases and $1.99 for older films. All movies will cost 99 cents for additional days. Redbox charges 99 cents for rentals every day, including the first.

Previously, Blockbuster, the nation's only remaining retail movie rental chain, charged $4.99 for a three-day rental.

By charging more for the first day, Blockbuster will be able to maintain what has been its one significant advantage over Redbox and its other larger rival, Netflix: New releases from major studios available to rent the same day they go on sale.

20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. all restrict Redbox from renting their DVDs until 28 days after they go on sale because they believe 99 cents is too low a price for a first-night rental. Those three studios, along with Sony Pictures and Walt Disney Studios, also place similar restrictions on subscription rental service Netflix.

Despite expectations that Dish would close many of Blockbuster's retail locations, only a handful of the 1,700-plus stores have shut down. A spokesman for Dish said that the company is still considering how many stores to keep open and that the decision rests in part on negotiations with studios over the terms under which it obtains DVDs.

Dish has yet to detail plans for a Blockbuster-brand digital offering to compete with Netflix's online streaming service.

ben.fritz@latimes.com

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