We’ve long since known that Blockbuster was a property not long for this world. Over the years, as the rise of streaming and some questionable business practices hit the chain hard, it became clearer and clearer that it would not survive the brave new world of media rental. Now, the decline and fall of the Blockbuster empire is almost complete, as § remains one, solitary store open across the entire world – located in Bend, Oregon.
Heading to Alaska
The last major holdout of Blockbuster had been Alaska, which had as many as 9 Blockbuster stores open as late as 2016. The longevity of Blockbuster in that region was largely attributed to the high cost of internet, making streaming an untenable option for most people. However, eventually those holdouts were to close – as well as the final store still open in Australia – leaving the Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, as the only surviving branch of a once mighty chain.
Why it’s still around
There isn’t necessarily one singular reason that Bend’s Blockbuster has survived. A contributing factor seems to be that renting has actually come back around again to be the less expensive option. There’s been an explosion in the number of different streaming services over the last few years – alongside Netflix there’s now also Amazon, Hulu, HBO Go, and the soon-to-be-launched Disney+, all looking to claim a piece of the streaming market. In addition, an increasing number of streaming services are bidding for and creating service-exclusive titles – meaning it would be fairly expensive for any customer to gain access to all the content they might want. With that in mind, a $30 monthly fee and a walk to the store seems a much more reasonable price to pay for unlimited rental.
Nostalgia is also doing its part for the Bend store. Blockbuster is a relic now – one of the most visible casualties from the springtime years of nostalgia-hungry generations – and Bend holds claim to the single surviving instance of such a relic. There are people who actually make trips to the Bend Blockbuster for the nostalgic rush it offers. Bend’s high rate of tourism also helps this angle along – with surprised tourists stopping in to look at what they essentially view as a living fossil.
There’s also a more straightforward reason why this Blockbuster has outlasted all the others – namely, that it isn’t owned by Dish. Every corporate Blockbuster has closed, but the Bend Blockbuster is a locally-owned franchise. Of course, many local Blockbusters have closed too, but the owners of the Bend store own the store itself, and the land it stands on. Not needing to pay rent means that the running costs of the store have been cut dramatically, which has left the business strong enough to survive on local custom. However, Bend – and the nearby towns of Redmond and Madras – used to have 5 stores in total, all owned by the same family. All but 1 have closed, making the Bend store’s future much less certain.
Nonetheless, it looks as though the Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon, will stay open as long as business stays strong enough to justify its existence – which could be the case for a while. After all, business seems good, and nostalgia is a powerful thing. However, one day the generations who remember Blockbuster will be gone – instead of a knowing smile, upon hearing the name people will respond with: ‘Blockbuster? What’s that?’ Additionally, as physical mediums continue to diminish, DVDs themselves will become increasingly irrelevant. Who knows, though. With increasingly expensive streaming services, perhaps the Bend Blockbuster really will last. As options expand and pursestrings grow tighter, maybe rentals will make a resurgence. Perhaps there’s a chance that future generations will know the name Blockbuster – as a rental behemoth that grew from a single store in Bend, Oregon.