Just when the inevitable delisting of Blockbuster (NYSE: BBI) seemed to all but kill the debt-saddled DVD rental chain, NCR (NYSE: NCR) is whipping out the defibrillator.

NCR has struck a deal with QuikTrip to install Blockbuster Express kiosks in nearly all of the chain's 555 convenience stores.

The Blockbuster Express machine has been a rare workhorse in Blockbuster's depleted flick-flinging fleet, taking on Coinstar's (Nasdaq: CSTR) Redbox juggernaut head-on. It also only helps that the better-positioned NCR is bankrolling the kiosks.

By simply licensing Blockbuster's brand, NCR has been able to shoehorn its $1-a-day disc-rental automatons into supermarkets, drugstores, and discounters. From Duane Reade to 99 Cents Only (NYSE: NDN), NCR has been able to wedge its kiosks into the pockets of available discount-oriented retail that Coinstar hasn't claimed.

The expansion of Blockbuster Express -- thousands strong and clearly counting -- has been a mixed blessing for the rental chain's flagship stores. On the one hand, it attaches the company's iconic brand to a booming niche in home entertainment. Coinstar's DVD revenue soared 70% in its latest quarter. Unfortunately, Blockbuster Express makes the stores less relevant by pushing $1-a-day value pricing.

It's clear that Blockbuster will need to evolve if it wants to stay afloat. The recent liquidation of Movie Gallery is more of an omen than an opportunity. Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) thrived after last year's erasure of Circuit City, because there was more market share in consumer electronics to go around. Bed Bath & Beyond (Nasdaq: BBBY) continues to rock in the housewares space after the demise of Linens 'N Things, because consumers still need soft goods for their homes.

Blockbuster, on the other hand, is pushing in-store DVD rentals even as couch potatoes feast on pay-per-view, online streaming, and $1 rentals. The in-store market is thinning out overall, despite Blockbuster's faltering rivals.

The ball is now in NCR's hands. Will it let Blockbuster file for bankruptcy, dealing a blow to the brand that powers its growing kiosk business? That's certainly possible, especially now that consumer brands such General Motors and Six Flags (NYSE: SIX) have recently emerged from bankruptcy reorganization with their reputations largely intact.

Or will NCR step in as Blockbuster's sugar daddy, providing financing for the retailer to get through this rough patch -- at least, for long enough to see how viable the kiosk business ultimately becomes?

The way things are going, NCR will have to come up with an answer -- and soon.

Will Blockbuster file for bankruptcy protection later this year? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.

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