It’s official: Bend has the last Blockbuster on Earth

Uber driver Angelo Bifano takes a photo of his passengers at Bend’s Blockbuster in July. A Blockbuster is closing in Australia, leaving the one in Bend — and no others, anywhere.(Ryan Brennecke/Bulletin file photo)

The Blockbuster video rental store in Bend is no longer the last one in the United States.

It’s the last one in the world.

Sandi Harding, general manager of the Bend Blockbuster, received a call Monday from an Australian radio station sharing the news that the Blockbuster in Perth, Australia — the only other Blockbuster on Earth — is closing at the end of the month.

Harding said she was even more shocked at Monday’s news than she was in July, when she learned Blockbuster stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, had closed, making her store off Third Street the last in the country.

“I had no idea,” she said Tuesday. “I wondered which one of us was going to hold out the longest.”

Blockbuster was a cultural phenomenon when it opened in the mid-1980s, as people flocked to its stores to rent movies. The company had more than 9,000 stores at its peak. But its popularity started to dwindle as online streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu became more convenient ways to watch movies.

The company filed bankruptcy in 2010 and closed all of its corporate-owned stores in early 2014. The remaining franchised stores kept closing, leaving the lone location in Bend.

The Bend Blockbuster is showing no signs of closing, Harding said. Since the store became the last one in the United States in July, it has drawn tourists from as far away as Taiwan and London.

Many visitors don’t rent a movie from the store but come instead to buy a Blockbuster T-shirt, sticker or magnet. All of the merchandise in the store is made by Bend businesses, Harding said.

And the novelty of the Blockbuster store has re-energized locals to rent more movies, she said.

“We probably open up 10 accounts a day,” Harding said. “It’s crazy the amount of people that come in and want a Blockbuster card.”

The local Blockbuster also has a steady lease agreement with the building’s property owner. The owners of the local Blockbuster, Ken and Debbie Tisher, have leased the property since 1992, when it was a Pacific Video store. The store was franchised in 2000 and became a Blockbuster. The current lease does not expire for about another three years, Harding said.

“I don’t foresee the store closing,” she said. “I think we are good for a while.”

Another draw for visitors to the Bend Blockbuster is an extensive collection of Russell Crowe memorabilia on display. Visitors to the local Blockbuster can 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 collection was originally purchased as a gag by comedian John Oliver of the HBO show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” Oliver purchased the collection from Crowe and gave it to the Blockbuster store in Anchorage as a way to drum up attention for the store. Oliver held onto the oddest item in the collection — a leather jockstrap Crowe wore in the 2005 boxing movie, “Cinderella Man” — and used it for a skit with Crowe in November.

Harding doesn’t expect the jockstrap to be sent to Bend to join the other items in the collection.

The local Blockbuster is a focus of a full-length documentary being created by two Bend filmmakers, Taylor Morden and Zeke Kamm.

Morden and Kamm are in the final stages of filming and hope to start editing their project later this year. The duo has spent the past year interviewing a variety of famous actors and comedians about their love for video stores, including actor and director Kevin Smith, known from the films “Clerks,” “Mallrats” and “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.”

“It’s going to be a very funny film,” Kamm said Tuesday.

But the documentary will also examine how video rental stores offer film lovers a community, and how sad it can be to lose that community when video stores close.

Kamm said people sometimes ask if he is excited to be documenting the last Blockbuster in the world. It’s a bittersweet experience, he said. Kamm is happy to see all of the attention the Bend store is getting, but he is sorry to see it is the last one.

“There is no winner being the last,” Kamm said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, 
kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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