I read the other day that just one lonely Blockbuster Video store remained on the entire planet.
No, it’s not the one in North Myrtle Beach that I once stopped at on the way home from the newsroom.
And it’s not the one in Pawleys Island that I stopped at on the way home from golf.
Those are both long gone, along with thousands of other Blockbusters.
This last one is in Bend, Ore., where Blockbuster Video has joined the High Desert Museum and the surrounding ski slopes as a major Bend tourist attraction.
Stop in when you’re in the area and you cannot just get a seven-day rental of, oh, all the Batman movies, but you can also pick up a $20 blue-and-yellow T-shirt with the words, “The Last Blockbuster in America: Bend, Ore.” Or you can visit a local brewery, 10 Barrel Brewery, and sip on its newest beer, The Last Blockbuster.
The Bend store outlasted two in Alaska, both of which closed last July. The only other such store that was left on the planet, in Australia, closed in March.
According to The New York Times, the Bend store has several years left on its lease and a license agreement that its owners sign annually with Dish Network, which purchased the remaining Blockbusters in 2011.
Blockbuster, which opened its first store in 1985 had a colossal flameout shortly after it hit its peak in 2004. At the time it had more than 9,000 stores worldwide, with about half of those in the United States, and had more than 85,000 employees.
Blockbuster fell prey partly to poor management but mostly to the onslaught of competition, which came from several sides at breakneck speed. Netflix, Hulu and Amazon brought movies into our homes with a single flip of the remote. RedBox offered rentals for $1. Wi-Fi availability brought another wide world of entertainment via iphones and tablets.
Bend Mayor Sally Russell has some thoughts about why the Bend store, with more than 4,000 active accounts, fended off the assault. She says Bend is in a region that has “a huge expanse of very small communities” that often have no easy access to high-speed internet necessary for content streaming.
And then, of course, there is the tourism factor. One man recently came all the way from England to visit the store, but most simply wanted selfies outside the last Blockbuster. “They treat us like celebrities,” says store manager Sandi Harding.
Mayor Russell calls it the nostalgia factor.
“It’s like with old vinyls and how everyone wants to have turntables again,” the mayor said. “We get to the place where something out of date comes back in — there’s definitely an interest in keeping this almost-extinct way of enjoying movies alive.”
It takes a village
Reader Nancy R. Blalock asked if there were a way to donate to the three girls whose parents, Marshall and Danyelle Altman, died in a recent auto accident.
I am happy to say that a fundraiser will be next Saturday, June 15, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Awendaw Green (next to the Sewee Outpost in Awendaw). There will be a dinner, live music, a raffle and a silent auction. Entry is $15 for adults and $5 for children, cash only. Or you call up GoFundMe.com/Altman-girls to make a donation.
Contact Bob Bestler at firstname.lastname@example.org.