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Bemidji Blockbuster to be the last in Minnesota

BEMIDJI — Bemidji’s Blockbuster video store will be the last location in Minnesota early next year as hundreds of Blockbusters close across the country, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The store, which is owned and operated by North Central Management Group, is a franchise location, saving it from the fate of 300 corporate-owned Blockbusters in the U.S. that parent company Dish Network will close.

“There is no plan at this point to close or do anything different than what we’ve been doing,” said Kevin Seeger, North Central general manager.

The Bemidji location will be the last remaining Blockbuster store in Minnesota after the January closings, Dish spokesman John Hall said.

Dish Network announced Wednesday that it would end its by-mail video distribution service as well as shutter its retail stores and distribution centers. Dish plans to lay off as many as 2,800 employees.

But Seeger said their store operations in Bemidji and Grand Forks, N.D., are relatively independent, except for software and other support services.

“I think from my perspective, as a franchisee, there’s really no effect,” Seeger said.

Dish Network said Wednesday that it will close its remaining U.S. corporate-owned stores by early January 2014. Dish president and CEO Joseph P. Clayton cited the growing shift to digital video distribution while announcing the closures.

“This is not an easy decision, yet consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment,” Clayton said in a statement. “Despite our closing of the physical distribution elements of the business, we continue to see value in the Blockbuster brand, and we expect to leverage that brand as we continue to expand our digital offerings.”

Dish will retain the Blockbuster brand’s licensing rights, along with key assets, including the company’s video library. Dish, which acquired Blockbuster in 2011, will focus on providing Blockbuster@Home service to its customers and via the Blockbuster on Demand streaming service.

Early last year, Dish Network closed 500 Blockbuster stores — at that time, about a third of its remaining retail outlets.

At its peak, in 2004, Blockbuster boasted more than 9,000 stores, according to the New York Times. Dish, the second-largest U.S. satellite TV company, bought the failed Blockbuster LLC video rental chain in a bankruptcy auction in 2011 for $320 million, a dramatic fall for a brand that at its peak in 2002 had a market value of $5 billion.

John Hageman of Forum News Service contributed to this report.