Can the last Blockbuster in the world survive the pandemic?
There was nothing like rolling up to a Blockbuster video store on a Friday night, parking in front of the bright yellow & blue marquee that symbolized a beacon of weekend hope for families & movie lovers alike.
Today, with one final location still open in Bend, Oregon, we look at the video rental store’s cultural impact and ask the question, can the last Blockbuster in the world survive the pandemic?
A history of Blockbuster
Blockbuster LLC opened its first location on October 19th, 1985, in Dallas, Texas, offering a home video rental service that would eventually expand to other services including video game rental, DVD-by-mail, video on demand, and even streaming. At the height of its powers in 2004, Blockbuster operated 9,094-stores that employed a total of 84,300 employees across the globe.
Blockbuster was like a 1950s candy store for the modern era, as children would frolic through the aisles as they narrowed down their viewing options among friends while parents searched across the “New Release” wall, puzzled as to why all 84-copies of 2000’s Chocolat have been rented out.
Sadly, when Blockbuster failed to compete with the likes of Redbox, Netflix, and other rental services, this iconic brand began to see a steep decline, ultimately filing for bankruptcy protection in 2010.
After many of its stores closed – a variety having been purchased by Dish Network – the final 300 company-owned Blockbusters locked their glass doors in 2014.
Until there remained only one . . .
Blockbuster in Bend, OR
If you’re still trying to hold onto what last bits of the 1990s exist in today’s tech world, you may want to consider a trip to beautiful Bend, Oregon, where the very best of your nostalgia cravings will be fulfilled.
Even cooler? The store paired up with AirBnB to create a fun sleepover environment, which of course adheres to current COVID-19 guidelines.
Store owner Sandi Harding, otherwise known in local parts as the “Blockbuster Mom”, is still fighting hard to keep her store open amid a world of streaming, giving hope to other small business owners around the world as they look to this yellow & blue north star, saying to themselves “If she can fight for her business, then so can we.”
The Last Blockbuster
Filmmakers Taylor Morden & Zeke Kamm are set to release their documentary, The Last Blockbuster, later this month, which features interviews & anecdotes by Kevin Smith (Clerks), comedian Doug Benson, Jamie Kennedy (Scream franchise), and owner Sandi Harding.
The film tells the Blockbuster story, including elements of the 2008 financial crisis as well as the company’s lack of leadership & poor marketing strategies. “No late fees,” you say?
The project also chronicles the lone-surviving store and how it’s managed to survive through a healthy combination of perseverance & nostalgia, especially in a time where the media landscape is constantly changing.
Can the sole remaining Blockbuster survive?
The 2020 pandemic is affecting millions of businesses across the globe, making it extremely difficult for these mom & pop shops to survive, even after trying every creative strategy in the book to continue on safely with their products & services.
So what makes this gem of a movie store in Bend, OR, different? Brand recognition.
Not only is this Blockbuster the iconic movie store we remember as kids & young adults, but it’s the last. It’s a beautiful, multi-colored bird that’s fighting against the endangered species list, clawing & scratching to keep its spirit alive.
This last Blockbuster location, like many endangered species, has found a way to evolve, pulling in new revenue opportunities that are unique to this final location, including the aforementioned overnight sleepovers where you can once more take in the sights, feels, and smells of Blockbuster as you cozy up in a living-room decorated environment.
It’s hard to say how long the gimmick of the “last Blockbuster” will stand, but hopefully – for those faithful to the brand as well as for the store itself – this special location will serve as a sort of “Mt. Rushmore for Bend, Oregon”, persevering through the COVID era and into history books for many years to come.