If your idea of a good time is heading over to the nearest Blockbuster on Friday night to load up on rented movies for the weekend, a visit to the last functioning Blockbuster on Earth in Bend, Oregon is an absolute must. If you thought the glory days of perusing aisle after aisle of shiny DVD cases and interacting with a flesh and blood Blockbuster employee at the checkout counter were long gone—think again. Against all odds, a lone Blockbuster has managed to thrive in the age of streaming services, digital movie rentals, and show-stealing social media platforms like TikTok.
The key to the last Blockbuster’s runaway success is leaning into nostalgia. The store sports the signature yellow and blue logo that those of us who grew up in the 90s recognize instantly. The last Blockbuster also smells of popcorn and candy which is one of the most comforting scents imaginable. Simply walking through the door and seeing rows of DVDs displayed by category is enough to make any nostalgic heart skip a beat.
Longtime Blockbuster general manager Sandi Harding states that tourism and merchandise are a big part of the last Blockbuster’s raging success. Visitors can purchase hoodies, shirts, and socks with “be kind, rewind” printed on them. Harding states that the last Blockbuster still eagerly rents DVDs and video games. Even those who are visiting for a few days can open a free rental account by producing a valid form of ID. The last Blockbuster has an extensive selection of DVDS which rivals the catalogue of any streaming service.
In 2020, the last Blockbuster teamed up with short term rental company Airbnb to create a 90s immersion experience where a handful of lucky renters could spend the night in the store for the bargain basement price of $3.99—which happens to be the cost of a DVD rental. Visitors strapped on rollerblades and rode around the store, wore 90s-era flannel shirts, and stayed up all night watching scary movies handpicked from the horror section. The promotion was a smash hit. The only snag was that the last Blockbuster doesn’t have any bathing facilities, so visitors could only camp out comfortably for a few days.
The last Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon is one of the few places left which still offers the thrill of borrowing a DVD. Sandi Harding urges visitors to relish the increasingly rare joy of renting instead of streaming.