The Last Blockbuster

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In 2018, thousands of films are just a few taps away, but back in what some would call the “contemporary dark ages” — the 90’s — people went on pilgrimages to find the perfect show. A vestige of these bygone times, the last Blockbuster, rests its weary foundations in Bend, Oregon.

The once popular company opened their first store in Dallas, Texas during the autumn of 1985. At its peak in 2004, there were over 9,000 stores nationwide. City blocks and strip malls were flocked with indoor hibernators coming to rent the newest movies. But, after the development of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, their steady stream of customers dried up.

“I was surprised when I found out we had the last Blockbuster,” said Learning Essentials teacher James Cordes. “We’re a pretty isolated town, and internet isn’t widely available to people outside of the city, so it makes sense that more people might watch DVDs out here.”

Bend, a town typically associated with an affinity for the outdoors, also has a thriving film community: boasting three movie theaters and a yearly film festival for the last 15 years. After being declared the last one, the store has become a tourist attraction. Just seeing the iconic Blockbuster sign brings people back to the 90’s.

“I remember growing up so excited to pick out that new movie that you missed in the theatre,” said Cordes. “I was always very excited to go to Blockbuster.”

Because there is only one Blockbuster store left, there is no corporation to send them the newest DVDs anymore. The manager of the store, Sandi Harding, updates the stores content by browsing stores for DVDs that were just released. Ironically, Harding also uses a DVD subscription service so her store can never truly be “out of stock.”

“Whenever Blockbuster would get a new release, I would walk over to the new release section and there would only be the 15 empty DVD cases which meant that that movie wasn’t available,” said Cordes. “If the movie was available they would be behind the DVD cases, but I was always disappointed when the movie I wanted wasn’t in stock.”

Unlike renting a movie from a video store, streaming services like Amazon and iTunes do not have a set number of movies they can rent out. Harding has a goal to replicate that process in her store, so no customer is disappointed.

“You [can] get the new [movies] online. It’s the classic stuff that you can’t always find, so they come in to see us because they know they can get it,” Harding told Verge.

Along with their film culture, Bendites are a beer-loving people. A fusion of both lovable trends, 10 Barrel Brewing, created a beer named The Last Blockbuster — described as having the taste of red licorice, which is pairs perfectly with buttery popcorn and a good movie.

“Blockbuster is a cultural icon and we couldn’t be more excited to celebrate over three decades of movie fandom with them,” 10 Barrel co-founder Chris Cox told The Manual. The beer was officially released to the public on September 21st.