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Still Making It a 'Blockbuster Night'

1 Aug, 2017 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon

A million people are expected to invade central Oregon for the total solar eclipse Aug. 21. If they’re lucky, they can see a fully-operational Blockbuster Video store as well.

Few brands resonate within home video more than Blockbuster. The erstwhile chain once dominated movie rentals in the ’80s, ’90s and beyond. It’s been shuttered since 2014 when parent Dish Network pulled the plug after acquiring the 3,300-store chain out of bankruptcy in 2011.

There reportedly remain just 10 independently owned Blockbuster stores — including one in Bend, Ore., (pop. 80,000) and another in nearby Redmond (pop. 27,000).

To two clerks working the night shift in late July at the Bend location on Hwy 97 business loop, stocking titles in the clean, well-appointed store is business as usual. One customer peruses catalog fare while a young family eyes child-appropriate content. A couple visiting from Georgia commemorate the occasion with discreet selfies.

On adjacent walls TV monitors air “The Office.” Appropriately, the episode revolves around Michael Scott (Steve Carell) informing the staff at Dunder Mifflin, corporate would not be shutting down the paper company.

New releases rent for $3.99 for 72 hours with a late fee (99 cents) for each day past due. One-week DVD rentals are docked daily late fees of 49 cents. Blockbuster late fees reportedly are what prompted Reed Hastings to co-launch Netflix in 1999.

A sign explains that a rental will accrue fees for up to 10 days before converting into a sale. The customer has 30 days to void the sale (excluding late fees).

The store accommodates a local clientele that still covets new releases lining perimeter walls, with catalog, TV shows and video games filling up shelf-space within. It’s a retail blueprint that worked for decades.

“Its kind of antiquated technology [disc rental], but it still works,” said the clerk.


About the Author: Erik Gruenwedel

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