Netflix Streaming Blockbuster Video Doc a Boon to Last Standing Store

Netflix may have killed off Blockbuster Video, but a recent documentary on the streaming site about the legendary home video rental chain has been a boon to the last-standing branded store in the world located in Bend, Ore.

Netflix March 15 began streaming The Last Blockbuster, from filmmakers Taylor Morden and Zeke Kamm, who began their project in 2017 hoping the store would remain in business just long enough to see the finished documentary. The doc remained among Netflix’s top 10 streamed content for two weeks.

Store manager Sandi Harding in Netflix doc ‘The Last Blockbuster’

“For us to have some small part in helping the store stay open is amazing,” Morden told the Bend Bulletin. “Not a lot of documentaries actually accomplish the goal of their story.”

The Bend store began in 1992 as Pacific Video, with existing owners Ken and Debbie Tisher becoming an independent Blockbuster franchise in 2000 — the same year Netflix founders Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph offered to sell the their struggling by-mail disc rental company to Blockbuster for $50 million. Blockbuster, which at its peak had more than 9,000 stores as the largest video store in the world, turned them down.

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The rest is capitalism 101. Netflix soon turned the page on packaged media, co-creating the subscription streaming VOD market with a branded Roku player. Blockbuster ceased corporate operations in 2015, while Netflix ended 2020 with more than 200 million subscribers and $25 billion in revenue.

Bend Blockbuster store manager Sandi Harding isn’t dwelling on the past. Instead, she’s trying to keep up with the renewed consumer appeal among local residents and out-of-town visitors.

“It’s a little bit crazy, but it’s a very good thing,” said Harding. “We’ll take a little crazy if it means keeping the store open.”

Pandemic Challenges Last Standing Blockbuster Video Store

The last operating Blockbuster Video store in the world in Bend, Ore., has survived Netflix, over-the-top video and transactional VOD. Now it’s facing another challenge that has nothing to do with technology.

When Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on March 23 ordered social distancing measures statewide to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, Blockbuster was deemed non-essential and closed for a week.

Store GM Sandi Harding and the store’s 15 employees proactively addressed COVID-19 by instituting one-way aisles and mandatory six-feet spacing between customers allowed into the store.

Harding said that when the store became the last standing Blockbuster, it had about 6,000 customer accounts on top of tourists who frequent the place for nostalgia and history. Most of the store’s DVD/Blu-ray Disc rental customers live in the area.

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“We’re going to be here for a while, we’ve dealt with these kinds of challenges, not the coronavirus, but we’ve dealt with all kinds of things throughout this whole thing,” Harding told Fox Business. “Everybody knows our story, and we don’t give up easy. So we’re going to definitely go down with a fight like every other small business in America.”

Considering Blockbuster at one time had more than 9,000 stores, $1 billion in revenue and had Netflix co-founder Reed Hastings offering to sell Blockbuster his upstart by-mail disc rental company, the Bend store is a testament to small business survival.

“I just ordered in some floormats, you know, because right now we have blue tape down,” Harding said. “I mean, I love these kids that work for me and our customers and the whole reason we’re here is because, you know, these people enjoy coming to our store and I don’t want it to not be safe.”

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‘The Last Blockbuster’ Documentary Trailer Released

The trailer to the full-length documentary The Last Blockbuster has been released. The clip promotes the 40-minute film, which outlines the rise and fall of the world’s largest video store chain, and the last location’s struggles to stay in business in Bend, Ore.

A premiere is slated for May 8 at the Tower Theater in Bend, to be followed by an afterparty at the Blockbuster store.

Funded in 2018 by a Kickstarter crowd-source social media platform and distributed by Pop Motion Pictures, filmmaker Taylor Morden and producer Zeke Kamm sought to interview people who had worked for Blockbuster back when the chain had 9,000 stores and 80,000 employees worldwide, was synonymous with home video and seen as an insurmountable threat by an upstart by-mail DVD rental service named Netflix.

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Blockbuster, which was based in Dallas, filed for bankruptcy in 2010, its remaining 1,700 stores acquired by Dish Network. The satellite TV operator later disclosed it bought the chain largely for its retail footprint and a future mobile telecom business it has just now organized through the acquisition of Boost Mobile.

When the filmmakers began their project, several operating Blockbuster stores still existed, including in Bend where they lived. When the next-to-last store (in Alaska) shuttered, the rush to get the documentary completed took on a sense of urgency.

“I remember saying, ‘so many people have worked at Blockbuster, some of them must be hilarious, interesting, famous, whatever,'” Kamm told Comicbook.com.

The trailer features commentary from indie director Kevin Smith, former Blockbuster CFO Thomas Casey, Ione Sky, Eric Close, Jamie Kennedy, Adam Brody, Samm Levine and Doug Benson, among others.

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“If there’s some cats in Oregon still scratching it out with, you know, ‘be kind, rewind,’ nothing wrong with that. That’s beautiful,” Smith says on the trailer.

Details when the doc is released on DVD, Blu-ray Disc or even VHS, as some Kickstarter contributors have requested, has not been disclosed.