BE KIND, REWIND

At the edges of America, Blockbuster stores (stocked with actual DVDs) still exist

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In Bend, Oregon, tourists come for the ski slopes, golf, and fresh mountain air, but stay for the Blockbuster Video. The resort town is home to one of the 12 or so remaining Blockbuster franchises in the US, including ones scattered in Alaska and Texas.

The Bend store, the largest of at least three in Oregon, which is nestled next to a Papa Murphy’s pizza and a hair salon, still rents and sells DVDs, Blu-rays, video games, and snacks to customers daily. Blockbuster has also become a bit of a tourist attraction there. “A lot of people from out of town come, too, and they take pictures,” Santana Aguilar, a store manager who has worked there since November, tells Quartz. “We’re pretty busy everyday.”

These Blockbuster outlets on the edges of the US haven’t fallen victim to online video rivals like Netflix or Amazon because internet service isn’t as reliable in these towns where the last stores reside. Some customers also don’t have, or can’t get, internet in their homes, employees at two of the Oregon stores told Quartz. RedBox, which rents movies through automated kiosks outside grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers, isn’t as big a thing.

Kevin Daymude, a manager at a Blockbuster in Alaska, where there are nine franchises, has a hard time convincing people he really works there. “I can’t tell you how many business cards I’ve given out to people ‘cause they literally do not believe that I’m from Blockbuster,” he told CBS News.

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DVDs are still the biggest sellers at the Bend store, Aguilar told Quartz. Regulars buy and rent new releases, which Blockbuster gets every week, usually ahead of Netflix. And the classics are only 99 cents to rent for a week. (Aguilar, at the Bend store, himself has Netflix but prefers Blockbuster’s vast movie catalog, too.)

The Blockbusters that exist today are franchises that license the name Blockbuster from Dish Network, which bought the failed video chain after it declared bankruptcy in 2010. The Redmond, Oregon location, for example, was once a Pacific Video that changed its name Blockbuster in 2000.

Dish shuttered the 300 remaining corporate locations in 2013, and converted all the franchises to licensees. Roughly a dozen remain today.

The outlets that live on are not immune to the problems that felled the corporate video chain. Ken Tisher, who owns the Bend store, closed two others in the city over the last decade, reported a local newspaper. And Alan Payne, who owns the other nine remaining franchises, reportedly owned 21 Blockbusters across Alaska and Texas two years ago. One in Mission, Texas just folded this week, according to an employee Quartz spoke with.

At its peak in the mid-2000s, Blockbuster reportedly had 9,000 stores worldwide, and an offer to partner with the nascent Netflix, which it shortsightedly turned down.

Netflix is now worth more than $60 billion. And Blockbuster’s final franchises are being picked off one by one.

Correction: This post previously stated that the last Blockbuster in Texas had closed. There is still a location in Edinburg, Texas, which Quartz had unsuccessfully tried to contact before publication.


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