Only one Blockbuster video store to remain open in the world

Competition from on-demand film-streaming services like Netflix forced company to declare bankruptcy in 2010 

Tiffany Hsu
Thursday 07 March 2019 11:54 GMT
The Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon, is to become the last in the world
The Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon, is to become the last in the world (AP)

The Blockbuster video shop in a city near central Oregon became the last one in the US last year and soon it will be the last one in the world

The second-to-last shop, a squat blue-and-yellow slab wedged next to a real estate agency in western Australia, will stop renting videos this week and shut down for good at the end of the month.

Two in Alaska, part of the final group of Blockbuster outlets in the United States, closed in July.

The film rental shops were once everywhere, with 9,000 stores worldwide.

But competition from on-demand film-streaming services like Netflix and Hulu forced the company to declare bankruptcy in 2010.

After hearing that she would be running the world's last store, Sandi Harding, general manager of Bend’s Blockbuster, wrote on Facebook: “Holy Cow it’s exciting.”

The Bend store became a Blockbuster franchise in 2000. It has about 4,000 active accounts and signs up a few fresh ones each day, Ms Harding said.

Some of the new customers are tourists who have travelled hours out of their way to stop in.

Calls to the store’s landline earlier this week were greeted by a steady busy signal or hold music (the “Star Wars” theme). On sale inside were Blockbuster-branded merchandise, including trucker hats, cups, even magnets made by a local teacher.

The shop has several years left on its lease and a license agreement that its owners sign annually with Dish Network, which bought Blockbuster for $320m (£243m) in 2011.

“It’s almost re-energised us, that we’re the last one,” Ms Harding said. “They treat us like celebrities.”

A local beer maker, 10 Barrel Brewing, crafted a special beer, the Last Blockbuster, and served it at a party at the store. Two filmmakers raised nearly $40,000 on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to finish a documentary about the location.

Bend is in a region that the city’s mayor, Sally Russell, describes as having “huge expanses with really small communities” that often do not have easy access to the high-speed internet necessary for content streaming.

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Many residents of outlying areas stop at Blockbuster during their weekly trips to town to run errands, drawn in part by the store’s seven-day rental policy, Ms Russell said.

She added that the store’s last-in-the-world status could even give it a lift.

“It’s like with old vinyl, and how everyone wants to have turntables again,” she said. “We get to a place where something out of date comes back in – there’s definitely interest in keeping this almost-extinct way of enjoying movies alive.”

The New York Times

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