It filed under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code, which will allow it to hold off creditors and continue operations while it develops a reorganization plan.
The Richmond, Va.-based company has been struggling as nervous consumers spend less and credit has become tighter, and the retail industry overall is facing what's expected to be the weakest holiday season in decades.
Circuit City also said it would cut 700 more jobs, after announcing a week ago that it would close 20 percent of its stores and lay off thousands of workers.
"This isn't a surprise," JPMorgan analyst Christopher Horvers said, adding that the reorganization could help the company get out of leases for certain bad store locations.
Circuit City, which has had only one profitable quarter in the past year, has faced significant declines in traffic and heightened competition from rival Best Buy Co. and others. It said it decided to file for bankruptcy protection because it was facing pressure from vendors who threatened to withhold products during the holiday season.
"At the end of the day I think it's really about an inventory position," Horvers said. "If they can get inventory into the stores, I can think they'll remain competitive."
He added, "I think it's encouraging that they were able to secure financing." Circuit City said it had lined up $1.1 billion in loans to provide working capital while it is in bankruptcy protection. That replaces a $1.3 billion asset-backed loan it had been using.
The company said in its filing that it had $3.4 billion in assets and $2.32 billion in liabilities, as of Aug. 31.
Circuit City Stores Inc. announced a week ago it planned to close 155 of its more than 700 U.S. stores by Dec. 31. The stores are spread throughout 28 states, including multiple locations in areas like Phoenix and Atlanta. It is laying off about 17 percent of its domestic work force, which could affect up to 7,300 people.
The company also said last week that it will further cut back on new store openings and planned to work with landlords to renegotiate leases, lower rent or terminate agreements while it dealt with tightening credit from its vendors.
Circuit City posted a wider second-quarter loss in September with a 13 percent decline in sales at stores open at least a year. The company has been under new leadership since late September when Chief Executive Philip J. Schoonover agreed to step down. He was replaced by James A. Marcum, who is now vice chairman and acting president and chief executive.
Shares in Circuit City have traded under $1 for more than a month and the company received a warning about that last month from the New York Stock Exchange that.