Founded in Texas in 1985, Blockbuster once dominated the home video scene with more than 9,000 stores worldwide.
It’s commercials used to say, “The perfect video store is popping up all over the country. There’s one near you.”
Though it’s likely not near you, today in Bend, Oregon, there is still one.
CGTN’s Mark Niu explored it.
We travel about three hours south of Portland to the scenic and touristy city of Bend.
I make my way into that iconic blue and yellow-trim store where I’m greeted warmly by general manager Sandi Harding.
“Welcome to Blockbuster,” Harding said.
I ask her what exactly this place is? “The last Blockbuster on the planet,” she responds.
It became the very last Blockbuster when the other remaining store in Australia closed in March.
With shirts, hats, sunglasses, and much more paraphernalia emblazoned with the Last Blockbuster on the Planet mantra, this store is riding the wave of fame with visitors from all over coming for a trip down memory lane.
“This is the last Blockbuster, correct? When we knew that, we were like I have to go. I have to take a picture outside. I wanna walk these walls one more time,” said Kathleen Holtschneider, who lives about three hours away in Medford, Oregon. ”
“A lot of the outside of the building, inside of the building really looks the same, so you feel like you are stepping back in time,” said visitor Michelle Bennett from Tusla, Oklahoma.”
General Manager Sandi Harding has worked here for 15 years.
She buys 80% of the DVD movies through a Hong Kong Stock exchange listed-distributor and 20% from stores she shops at herself.
In the store’s backroom, she shows me a box that’s even filled with donated VHS tapes.
“So we’re putting up a little memory wall, kind of a little museum. Everyone is asking for that and I wanted to have some old VHS tapes along with the DVD’s that I could display,” said Harding.
Browsing the DVD shelves, I soon come across something I haven’t seen in a couple of decades — the employee picks.
I see Zack’s, Dalton’s, Dan’s and Ryan’s.
Each has a DVD box cover with their own artwork.
It’s clear they take great pride in trying to recommend the best movies for their customers.
Sandi’s son, Ryan, has been helping out at the store since he was three years old.
“It’s always nice to see someone grab your movie cause you’re like that’s really cool. And it’s always nice when they ask for something else in your pick because you can have a pretty detailed conversation,” said Ryan Harding, who is now assistant manager.
Seventy two year-old customer Jeanne Pierce comes to the store every day.
“The people that work here love it. And I’m able to talk movies and film and actors. They are very knowledgeable,” said Pierce.
In the past eight months, the store has signed up around 5,000 new customer rental accounts.
“I think the fact that you can come in, you can touch the movies, you can walk around with them in your hand, there are other customers you can talk to,” said Harding. “There’s social interaction that you don’t get, sitting on your jammies on your couch. ”
Customer Stu Goss brought his five year-old and two year-old sons, to the store.
“I like the experience of coming and looking at all. It’s not the same with Netflix, flipping through the stuff and seeing it in person,” said Goss.
I watch his sons excitedly grab their favorite DVD’s off the shelves and wave them toward their dad.
“I love bringing them here. It’s something I love doing as a kid. It isn’t something a lot of kids get to do anymore,” said Goss.
It’s may be an experience dying out around the world, but one that is still entertaining and bringing joy to this one special place.
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