2020’s The Last Blockbuster turned up as a Netflix suggestion. It was added to the my list and stayed on that list briefly. Might be the quickest film yet to go from list to watched in the many years I’ve been a Netflix subscriber.
The Last Blockbuster is a wide-ranging look into the history of the video-rental company’s rise to power. As each interesting page of history is turned, another one flawlessly links the story together. It would be difficult to summarize the entire film from a critical point of view without giving away much of the content. Threaded throughout the film is footage and the story of the actual last remaining Blockbuster Video in existence located in Bend, Oregon. The store is a story in itself thanks to passionate General Manager Sandi Harding. Her passion, professionalism and dedication to the business and the people who have come and gone is heartwarming and will restore a bit of faith in humankind.
For much of my earliest kid years I remember video-rental businesses were everywhere. All of the major supermarkets in my hometown started to carry VHS and Beta cassettes. Every corner store got into it, and people who had other entrepreneurial ventures found funds to open their own small locations. Two of my favourite places to rent movies and games are both still in operation as of this writing. Big Al’s Convenience became a must-go location for newer games when they came in. Abercrombie Video & Variety was my location of choice as I moved away from game rental and stuck to more movie rentals. They were among the last stores in and near my hometown that rented old Nintendo Entertainment System Games so every now and then I would pick up something I didn’t own just to play it again.
When Blockbuster opened in my hometown of New Glasgow, there was initially a bit of blowback because their prices were higher. I preferred to walk the extra distance to Abercrombie and pay less to get the same thing. Where Blockbuster struck gold was in the variety of what it kept as well as the amount of copies they had on hand. The smaller stores had been taking reservations and bookings of certain games and movies. That system was difficult to keep up on by itself in addition to constantly having busy lines of customers to check out. Blockbuster’s deal with the studios is best explained in the film and I will leave you to check it out.
Towards the end of The Last Blockbuster, director Kevin Smith strikes an optimistic tone about movies as physical media. He believes that movies on physical media may see popularity rise akin to the re-growth of the vinyl record industry. I agree with him substantially. Like records stores, places like The Last Blockbuster serve as opportunities for an experience. The experience of scanning shelves for appealing content. The experience of passionate employees who encourage renters to go on the escape that films provide. The experience of a type of art gallery where you can borrow the art for a brief period.
The experience of creating more memories, while bring back and refreshing some times gone by.