The World’s Last Blockbuster Overcame Netflix, Now It’s Surviving the Pandemic

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The Blockbuster video store in Bend, Oregon, is the last of its kind in the entire world, and it’s miraculously surviving not just the streaming era but also the coronavirus pandemic. In a new interview with Vice, the store’s longtime general manager Sandi Harding said she’s keeping the lights on by making the store as safe as possible. Because the local DVD distributor is closed, Harding ventures to major retailers with her mask and gloves on to purchase new films for her store.

“The big title for next week is ‘Call of the Wild,” Harding told Vice. “I usually start out with 30 copies on DVD, and 12 to 14 Blu-Ray. I’ll go to Walmart, Target, Fred Meyer, every retailer we have here in town, and I’ll only get five or 10 from each one. They don’t like me very much if I come in and just wipe out their shelves, so I try to be conscientious of that, and make sure that I leave movies for their regular customers as well.”

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During the early days of the pandemic, Harding was forced to close the Blockbuster store because it was impossible to prevent overcrowding in the new releases section. The store reopened by offering curbside pickup for the first time in its history. Buyers could rent or purchase movies over the phone and a Blockbuster worker “would clean the DVD case with Clorox wipes, put it in a Ziplock bag, and take it to their car.”

The Blockbuster closed for a second time so Harding could make the store safe enough to let customers inside. The store’s owners continued to pay the entire staff. To make the Blockbuster as safe and social-distance friendly as possible, Harding and her team “started taping social distancing markers and directional arrows on the floors, DIY-ing their own Clorox wipes out of heavy-duty shop towels, and stocking up masks and gloves.”

According to Harding, business at the Blockbuster picked up and returned to normal after it opened with safety guidelines in place. The only difference Harding is noticing is her customers’ viewing habits. “At first it was ‘Outbreak,’ ‘Contagion,’ and any pandemic movie out there, but now it’s pretty much everything…They probably could’ve found the movie they’re looking for [on a streaming service], but they don’t have to: they can come here, and we’ve got it.”

Head over to Vice’s website to read more from Harding about the world’s last Blockbuster.

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