For the past two years, the Blockbuster video rental store in Bend, Oregon, has maintained the claim to fame as the last such franchise remaining on Earth. Now, the business of a bygone era is gaining even greater prominence as the result of a new Netflix documentary aptly titled “The Last Blockbuster.”
Since hitting the streaming service on March 15, visitors, callers, and online customers have flocked to the Blockbuster, embracing a sense of nostalgia and championing the enduring lone survivor of what used to be a chain of some 9,000 locations. The unassuming store situated in a Oregon strip mall 170 miles east of Portland has been busy fulfilling a flood of new orders. Workers spend their days packaging thousands of purchases for Blockbuster branded T-shirts, hats, and face masks, all made by local Bend businesses.
“It’s a little bit crazy, but it’s a very good thing,” store manager Sandi Harding told The Bulletin in Bend. “We’ll take a little crazy if it means keeping the store open.”
The documentary focuses on Harding and her day-to-day duties running the store. Various actors and filmmakers, including Kevin Smith, Ron Funches, Paul Scheer, and Brian Posehn, add context to the film as they reminisce about what the mighty chain meant to customers and pop culture. “The Last Blockbuster” is written and produced by Zeke Kamm, and is directed by Taylor Morden. It rose as high as the fourth most popular movie in the U.S. on the streaming service following its debut.
The Bend, Oregon, store has been in the national news multiple times in recent years. First for becoming the last of its kind after the Blockbuster in Perth, Australia, closed in March 2019. More recently, it made headlines in August 2020 for making itself available via Airbnb for sleepovers.
“It’s good for the store. It’s good for the community,” says store manager Harding. “And I can learn to live with my newfound fame as long as it doesn’t mess with what we are doing every day.”
For Kamm and Morden, both local Bend filmmakers, the journey started in 2017, well before the store gained fame as the last of its kind. Blockbuster locations in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, each shut down in 2018, making the Bend outlet the only one to remain operating in the U.S. Morden has said he is comforted in knowing that “The Last Blockbuster” may play a role in facilitating the continued existence of the store.
“For us to have some small part in helping the store stay open is amazing,” Morden said. “Not a lot of documentaries actually accomplish the goal of their story.”