When two Bend filmmakers started working last year on a full-length documentary about Blockbuster, they thought there was plenty of time to explore the nostalgia surrounding the beloved video rental company.
But then news broke in July that two Blockbuster stores in Alaska were closing, making the store off Third Street in Bend the last in the country.
Taylor Morden and Zeke Kamm felt a sense of urgency.
“Our primary goal is to get our movie out and on the shelf at Blockbuster while there still is one,” Morden said.
Morden, 37, is a director, cinematographer and editor who has mostly made documentaries in his career. He owns his own production company, Pop Motion Pictures.
Kamm, 47, has a long résumé in film and television, mostly as a writer for youth-oriented entertainment (“Dexter’s Laboratory,” “The Powerpuff Girls,” “My Life as a Teenage Robot”). He owns Nice Industries, a marketing, consulting and filmmaking company.
The two launched an online fundraising campaign Aug. 1 on Kickstarter.com to complete their documentary, “The Last Blockbuster.” The campaign raised $39,078 from 595 donors.
The filmmakers said the Kickstarter funds will help cover travel expenses, legal fees and other costs that go into the final stages of making a documentary. Their plan is to have the film finished by the spring. And by that time, they hope to have a distributor to air their documentary.
Kamm said the film will be lighthearted and funny, but it will also examine how Blockbuster went from having about 9,000 stores at its peak to just one U.S. store in Bend. Blockbuster still has some stores open in Australia.
“This could have just been a silly farce of a film, but it’s also incredibly fascinating,” Kamm said.
Interest in Blockbuster and the nostalgia around it seems to have reached a fever pitch this week. The New York-based online publication, The Outline, called Blockbuster this year’s hottest cultural trend, and a Blockbuster store was featured in the opening scene of the much-anticipated trailer for “Captain Marvel,” released Tuesday.
In addition, a pop-up Blockbuster store opened this week in London to promote the new movie, “Deadpool 2.” The temporary store only had copies of “Deadpool 2” on the shelves as part of the promotion.
It’s no wonder Morden and Kamm feel like it’s the perfect time to document the Blockbuster craze.
“I think we are onto something,” Morden said. “I think maybe the whole world gets it.”
The plight of the last remaining Blockbuster stores became part of a gag on an April episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”
Oliver purchased a collection of movie memorabilia from actor Russell Crowe and gave the items to the Blockbuster store in Anchorage, Alaska, as a way to drum up attention for the store.
The oddest — and most amusing — item in the collection was a leather jockstrap Crowe wore in the 2005 boxing movie, “Cinderella Man.”
When the Alaska store closed in July, the question became what would happen to the memorabilia. The items were eventually sent to the Bend location and are now set up in the store.
Visitors to the Bend Blockbuster can now see the hood Crowe wore in “Robin Hood,” the robe and shorts he wore in “Cinderella Man,” the vest he wore in “Les Misérables” and director chairs for Crowe and actor Denzel Washington from the movie, “American Gangster.”
The one item missing from the collection is the jockstrap. And its location has become a mystery.
Sandi Harding, the general manager of the Bend Blockbuster, said she checked with the Alaska store managers and they have no idea where the jockstrap went.
“No one seems to know where it is,” Harding said. “My staff is more excited about getting this other stuff than the jockstrap, but no one seems to know where it is.”
Oliver addressed the missing jockstrap Sunday during an interview at the Emmy Awards.
“The current location of that jockstrap is not clear. I know they sent the rest of that stuff to the Blockbuster in Oregon, but no one knows where the jockstrap is,” Oliver said in an article in The Week, an international weekly news magazine.
Publicity from the Russell Crowe memorabilia is nice, Harding said, but her store has had plenty of attention since it became the last one in the country. Visitors have come from as far away as London and Taiwan, and Harding has done interviews for media across the globe from Argentina to Scotland.
“It’s also brought back a lot of local people who forgot about us,” Harding said. “And that is probably the best-case scenario.”
Video rental stores such as Blockbuster have been dwindling in recent years as online streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have gained popularity. While it’s more convenient to pick a movie off an online service, there is something special about walking into a Blockbuster store, said Morden and Kamm.
Both filmmakers have fond memories as teenagers going to Blockbuster stores with friends, family or with a date.
Morden, who grew up in Vida, Oregon, along the McKenzie River, lived across the street from a Blockbuster when he lived in Portland after college. He would stop in multiple times a day, he said.
“I spent a lot of time in Blockbuster and other video stores,” Morden said. “I have very strong memories of just wandering around Blockbuster and reading the backs of the movies, and sometimes I would leave without a movie.”
Kamm, who lived in the small town of Mount Olive, New Jersey, as a teenager, remembers skateboarding with friends to the Blockbuster and hanging out there when there was nothing else to do.
It’s an experience the younger generation can no longer relate to, Kamm said.
Recently, Kamm brought his 9-year-old son into the Bend Blockbuster. His son was in awe of all the physical copies of the movies. He would pick up a movie, turn it over and say, “There’s stuff on the back.”
“It blew his mind,” Kamm said. “It’s so different than looking on Netflix.”
Those visits to Blockbuster as a teenager inspired Kamm to pursue filmmaking. He would imagine his own movie sitting on the shelf, waiting to be rented.
Soon, he could find that movie at the last Blockbuster.
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, email@example.com