last blockbuster

Stars: 3.5/5 

Remember the days where you would fight with your family at Blockbuster about which movie you were going to watch that night? Netflix’s “The Last Blockbuster” documentary allows you to revisit those days while getting to see how the last Blockbuster location in the world is faring amidst the rising popularity of streaming services.

The documentary was originally released on December 15, but just recently aired on Netflix on March 16 with rave reviews from critics and former Blockbuster-goers alike. The film delves into the status of the last existing Blockbuster location in Bend, Oregon, managed alone by Bend’s hometown hero, Sandi Harding.

Filmmakers Taylor Morden and Zeke Kamm are from Bend themselves and started this documentary back in 2017 when they saw how impactful the world’s last Blockbuster location was to their community and the world. Throughout the film, viewers get to see the economic downfall of the franchise and other video stores, as well as the corporate greed and management that added to Blockbuster’s demise.

One of my favorite parts of this documentary was the real-life accounts from celebrities talking about their experiences at Blockbuster during its heyday, proving how this franchise is able to leave a lasting impression even now.

Morden and Kamm even gave these celebrities/interviewees old Blockbuster DVD boxes and allowed them to reminisce on the days where you could hold the movie you wanted to watch in your hands as opposed to clicking it with your TV remote. These interviewees included Adam Brody, Samm Levine, Ron Funches, Paul Scheer, Doug Benson and Brian Poeshn.

The film also dives into one of the biggest controversies surrounding Blockbuster: why it didn’t buy Netflix before it basically ran Blockbuster out of business. Blockbuster CEO John Antioco quickly denied buying Netflix for almost $50 million back in 2000, claiming that it seemed like a “great big joke.” At the time, Netflix was just a DVD-by-mail rental service with a grim-looking future that soon turned around following the expansion of streaming services online.

While we all could wonder what life would have been like for Blockbuster had it taken this opportunity, there is no denying that it easily trumps Netflix in terms of the nostalgic feel that comes with going to a video store and picking out a movie in person.

The Facebook page for “The Last Blockbuster” even referred to the irony of the film being aired on Netflix when it announced its upcoming release on the streaming service on March 8.

The Bend location’s manager, however, continues to attract people from all over the world to the last standing Blockbuster despite the hardships it faces. Harding discusses how the business became very family-oriented for herself and the Bend community as she is responsible for employing a large number of citizens from the town, including her own family.

At one point in the documentary, I found myself tearing up from watching Harding and her family talk about the impact the franchise has had on their lives. It is hard not to be touched by the nostalgic feel Harding has managed to maintain in the store throughout her struggle to keep the business afloat over the past two decades. Harding is undoubtedly the star of the film, as viewers get to watch the consistent effort that one woman puts in to keep the Blockbuster name alive.

“The Last Blockbuster” is bound to make you feel like you are back in the good old days where going to the video store was a fun experience to have with friends and family. With heartwarming anecdotes that seem like a blast from the past, the documentary was able to make me want to buy a DVD player again.

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