Two other remaining locations, in Alaska, are closing soon, the owners announced on July 12. At its peak in the mid-2000s, Blockbuster was a behemoth that had 9,000 stores worldwide.
Smack in the middle of Third Street in the town of Bend, Oregon stands the soon-to-be last Blockbuster Video store in America.
It’s fitting that Bend, a tourist town popular for its expansive recreation options, would be the last stronghold of the video-rental chain. When Sandi Harding first started working at the Bend store in 2004, there were four video stores in the town of just 50,000 people. “That was a huge amount for such a small community,” Harding, the store’s general manager, told Quartz. “Bend has always been very much a movie town.”
Bend, which now has triple the population, also has three movie theaters and hosts an independent film festival each year. People still pop in everyday to the town’s Blockbuster store for movie rentals, which is nestled next to a Papa Murphy’s pizza, near the local Albertsons grocery and a Chevron stop.
Blockbuster was once the world’s largest video-rental chain. It shuttered the last of its stores in 2014 as Netflix and other streaming services hit their stride. The locations that exist today are franchises that license the name Blockbuster from Dish Network, which bought the failed video chain after it declared bankruptcy in 2010.
The Bend store is owned by local business owner Ken Tisher. He owned two other Blockbusters in Oregon, which closed down earlier this year. There are no plans to close the Bend store, Harding said.
About a quarter of the families, retirees, and movie lovers who come into the shop are regulars, Harding estimated. They come in for older movies you can’t find on Netflix, $0.99 rentals of kids films, and the latest releases. A Quiet Place, which came out on DVD on Tuesday, is the big one this week, she said.
Those customers know the staff of about 10 by name and trust their movie recommendations. “We have wonderful support from the community,” Harding said.
The Bend store has also become a bit of a tourist attraction. The town is popular vacation spot because of its ski slopes, lakes, craft breweries, and other outdoor activities. Visitors are often shocked to see a Blockbuster still renting and selling DVDs, Blu-rays, video games, and candy.
On Friday morning, a family from Sacramento, California popped into the Bend store during their vacation to introduce Blockbuster to their 10-year-old daughter, who had never been to the video-rental store, Harding said. Folks traveling from Phoenix, Arizona also came in see if the store was really open. That kind of thing happens daily.
“We get a lot of people from out of town,” said Harding. “They say, ‘Oh my god, you’re open. How are you still open?’ It’s very nostalgic.”
At the edges of America, Blockbuster stores (stocked with actual DVDs) still exist
A brief, illustrated history of Blockbuster, which is closing the last of its US stores