The Last Blockbuster: A Tale of Survival in Bend, Oregon

Before Netflix, there was Blockbuster, which was once a colossal corporation with 9,000 stores and 60,000 employees at its peak in 2004. It is now represented by a single store in Bend, Oregon. This store, colloquially known as the Last Blockbuster, has become a symbol of nostalgia and a testament to the power of community.

Photo: the Guardian

Why Didn’t This Location Shut Down?

The Bend store’s survival is largely due to the tireless efforts of its general manager, Sandi Harding. Despite the challenges posed by the rise of streaming services and the decline of physical media, Harding has managed to keep the store afloat. She even purchases new releases herself to ensure that the most popular titles are available for her customers.

The store has also adapted its business model to the changing times. As DVD players become more scarce, the store now relies mostly on merchandise sales and tourism. It has become a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors with its nostalgic appeal.

Is It Related to the Original Blockbusters Organization?

Yes, the Bend store is indeed related to the original Blockbuster organization. It was opened by Ken and Debbie Tisher in 1992 as the second location of Pacific Video, a small video rental store chain in the state. In 2000, Tisher converted it into a Blockbuster franchise store.

When Blockbuster LLC closed all of its corporate-owned stores by early 2014, the Bend location was one of 50 remaining franchise stores. Ken Tisher, who still owns the store, continues to license the Blockbuster trademark from Dish Network on a yearly basis.

Why Don’t They Expand to More Stores?

The primary reason is that Dish Network, the owner of the Blockbuster trademark, no longer grants new franchises with the Blockbuster name. This has cemented the Bend store’s status as the last Blockbuster.

Moreover, the world has largely moved away from physical media towards online streaming. The number of Blockbuster stores had decreased to roughly 1,700 by the time the company declared bankruptcy in 2010. In this context, expanding to more stores would likely not be a viable business strategy.

The Last Blockbuster Documentary

There actually is a documentary made about this nostalgic store. “The Last Blockbuster” is a documentary film that was released on December 15, 2020.

Directed by Taylor Morden and written by Zeke Kamm, the film provides a nostalgic look at the rise and fall of Blockbuster Video and the survival of its last store in Bend, Oregon.

The documentary follows Sandi Harding, the general manager of the last store, over the course of several years. It features interviews with notable figures such as Kevin Smith, Adam Brody, Samm Levine, Ron Funches, Paul Scheer, Doug Benson, James Arnold Taylor, Jamie Kennedy, and Brian Posehn.

The film explores how Blockbuster put independent video rental stores out of business by striking revenue-share deals with film studios, and how Blockbuster itself collapsed as a result of poor management and the financial crisis of 2007–2008. It also documents the business model and continued survival of the last remaining Blockbuster store.

The documentary has received mixed reviews, with an approval rating of 68% based on 28 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and an average rating of 7.1/10. Despite some criticisms, it has been praised for its nostalgic appeal and its exploration of a bygone era of home entertainment

The Last Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, stands as a monument to a bygone era. It serves as a reminder of the rapid pace of technological change and the power of nostalgia. Despite the odds, it continues to survive, offering a unique experience to its visitors and a sense of community to its regulars.

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