We are nearing the end of an era, as only a single Blockbuster Video store remains open in the United States.
The lone remnant is in Bend, Oregon, a moderately sized city of about 76,600 people. The general manager of the store, Sandi Harding, is reportedly quite surprised to learn that they are the last holdout in the country. (Note that 11 remain viable in Australia.)
For those too young to remember, Blockbuster was a video rental store, from back in the ancient days when that was the easiest way to see a movie at home. The company was founded in 1985 by David Cook and came to dominate the rental business during the 1980s and 1990s. When it was first created, the idea of renting a movie was new, and “making it a Blockbuster night” soon became a fun way to spend the evening.
Of course, the coming of online streaming would ultimately do the company in. It did fight valiantly to survive; it came up with its own online rental service, similar to Netflix, but ultimately could not compete. Eventually the company was bought by the Dish Network, which closed all of its corporately-owned stores. Franchises continued to survive, but they, too, have been vanishing quickly in recent years.
2018 opened with nine American stores in operation, mostly in Alaska; six quickly closed, with two of the Alaskan stores remaining. However, they will now be closing on August 1, according to their owner, Alan Payne. He says that they are still profitable at the moment, but that their income is declining so quickly that renewing his lease on the property is just not reasonable. Come next month, Harding’s Bend location will be all that remains of a former American institution.
In an interesting bit of trivia, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver recently had a slew of Russell Crowe memorabilia donated to the Anchorage store as part of a stunt; among the items was the jockstrap that he used during Gladiator. Reportedly, those working at the store do not know what will become of them.
Removing the nostalgia goggles, we may remember the annoyance of Blockbuster not stocking the movie we want, the stupid late fees or how they stomped out local businesses. But now that it has been all but stomped out itself, 90’s kids can be forgiven for feeling just a little melancholy.