Inside The Last Blockbuster Store In The World

DVDs on shelves.
jarmoluk / Pixabay

And then there was one.

With the upcoming closing of a Blockbuster store in Australia, the not-quite-extinct chain will be down to a single location in South Bend, Oregon, The New York Times reports.

Blockbuster, before the days of steaming services and digital downloads, used to have more than 9,000 locations around the world. Right now, there are two locations. The South Bend store continues to hum along as the location in Western Australia just announced that Thursday will mark the last day to rent a video from their location before a planned closing date at the end of the month.

Sandi Harring, the general manager of the Oregon location, was excited to find out that their store would indeed be the last one standing.

“So I just got off the phone with an Australian radio station,” she posted on Facebook after hearing the news. “The last blockbuster in Australia is closing at the end of the month making our Bend Store the last Blockbuster on the Planet!!!! Holy Cow it’s exciting,” she added, punctuating with a laughing emoji.

The store in South Bend has been around for almost 20 years, becoming a Blockbuster franchise in 2000. The location has about 4,000 active accounts with a steady trickle of new members that continues, often bolstered by tourists who have made something of a pilgrimage to the increasingly iconic spot.

So why has South Bend, Oregon, proven to be continually fertile ground in which a Blockbuster location can survive when literally nowhere else on the planet can?

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The town of Bend has been described as a collection of smaller communities, many of which don’t have access to the kind of high speed internet necessary for streaming and downloading films. As a result, many nearby residents make it a habit to drop into the store as part of their weekly trips into town for other errands, an endeavor bolstered by the Blockbuster’s seven-day rental policy.

Facing similar circumstances were two Blockbuster stores in Alaska, which likewise held on while the thousands of other locations closed their doors. The Alaska locations closed up shop in July of last year.

“It’s like with old vinyl, and how everyone wants to have turntables again,” said Sally Russel, the mayor of Bend. “We get to a place where something out of date comes back in — there’s definitely interest in keeping this almost-extinct way of enjoying movies alive.”

To celebrate the occasion of becoming the last Blockbuster, a Bend brewery, 10 Barrel Brewing, introduced the Last Blockbuster, a specialty brew that was served at a party at the store. A documentary on the location is currently underway.