A Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon is poised to be the last of its kind by the end of the month.
If you're old enough, you'd know that Blockbuster used to be a booming movie rental business back in the day. If you aren't, you probably remember it as the building Captain Marvel crashed into when she returned to Earth in the recently released movie.
Well, there are only two remaining joints in the entire world and one is set to close on March 31.
Running a Blockbuster can't be at all easy. Apart from competing with all of the popular streaming services, operations are sort of prehistoric.
This particular store has a computer that needs to be rebooted with a floppy disc which only the general manager knows how to use. Their dot-matrix printer is no longer functional so membership cards are written by hand and all business transactions are stored on a reel-to-reel tape that they can't replace since Radio Shack went bankrupt.
“It’s pure stubbornness, for one. We didn’t want to give in,” said general manager Sandi Harding, via the Associated Press. “We did everything we could to cut costs and keep ourselves relevant.”
Harding has been working at the franchise for the past 15 years and has played a huge role in keeping the store around.
The store is owned by couple, Ken and Debbie Tisher, who once owned four other Blockbusters in three central Oregon towns. But the others were all forced to shut down, while the one in Bend is being kept afloat by the nostalgic effect it has on persons of a certain age who can't help but marvel at the popcorn ceilings, the low fluorescent lighting and metal video racks. The biggest draw, though, is the unmistakable yellow and blue ticket stub logo.
“Most people, I think, when they think about renting videos — if they’re the right age — they don’t remember the movie that they went to pick, but they remember who they went with and that freedom of walking the aisles,” Zeke Kamm, a local resident who is in the process of making a documentary about the store called “The Last Blockbuster", explains.
“In a lot of towns, the Blockbuster was the only place that was open past nine o’clock, and a lot of them stayed open until midnight, so kids who weren’t hoodlums would come here and look at movies and fall in love with movies.”
Blockbuster declared bankruptcy in 2010 and, four years later, all corporate-owned stores closed down, leaving local franchises on their own, eventually forcing all of them, save one, to close down.
Stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska closed down last year not long after one gave up in Redmond, Oregon, leaving Bend's Blockbuster the only one in the US. That turned out to be a lifeline as tourists began stopping by for selfies and buying custom merchandise.
Harding took advantage of the situation and proceeded to order blue-and-yellow sweatshirts, T-shirts, cups, magnets, bumper stickers, hats and stocking caps from local vendors all bearing the words: “The Last Blockbuster in America”. These promptly flew off the shelves.
The other Blockbuster happens to be all the way in Perth, Australia. However, Harding received a call this month letting her know that the store is set to close down at the end of March. Of course, that called for "The Last Blockbuster on the Planet" memorabilia, so business is booming again.
This time around, though, people are actually renting movies, with nostalgic parents dragging their kids in to get titles such as The Lion King and Peter Pan, or stuff they just cannot find on Netflix.
So, as of April 1, the Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon will be the only Blockbuster in existence. If that isn't something to be proud of, we don't know what is.