Video rental stores are almost a thing of the past; with the once-booming blockbuster peaking at 9,000 stores worldwide, it is now down to just one outlet, which can be found in Bend, Oregon. However, this is not the end of video rental as a group of movie enthusiasts have vowed to bring back their local store.
The residents deeply believe of Baltimore in the US state of Maryland that we are at risk of losing something special in the era of streaming services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Although, today’s teenagers deem video stores ancient history and streaming sites the voice of the future!
Eric Hatch, the founder of Beyond video, says:
‘People are really reigniting the pleasure of browsing with physical items and not staring at a screen, not hunched over, scrolling, clicking, there’s something that feels kind of deadening and stultifying about that experience, I think.’
Just six months after opening, the store now blusters a collection of more than 12,000 titles on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray!
Consumers are paying a monthly fee of $16 US dollars and £9.99 in England for a premium subscription to Netflix. In comparison to $20 to rent new releases and classics, many of them are donated worldwide. Although streaming services offer a user experience that’s faster and more intelligent than flipping through piles of DVDs but does it really compare to the excitement of finally finding that one movie you’ve adored since you were young?
Blake Morgan, a customer experience futurist, believes:
‘The power of data, machine learning and AI has allowed companies like Netflix to tailor the content, to find content that every individual user will love because their research and data shows that individuals watch really eclectic stuff.’
Still, the older generation never felt that online streaming could truly replace an old school video store. Beyond video is confident that the new generation means video rental stores do have a future, even if they are up against billion-dollar streaming heroes!
So what remains of Blockbuster in Bend, Oregon?
The Blockbuster in Oregon is the last remaining one of its kind. The floor is patterned grey and the walls are mottled yellow, giving the store a nostalgic feel. The smells of popcorn and plastic fill the air, and 90s rom-coms play on TV screens. It's a place where people can go to relive their childhood memories.
At its peak, the Blockbuster empire had over 9,000 locations. However, by the time it filed for bankruptcy in 2010, there were only about 1,700 stores remaining. More than a decade later, only one location is still in operation.
In Bend, you can still find that old-school movie rental experience. You browse the shelves, organized by genre, and make your selection. When you take it to the register, the cashier removes the security tag and adds the movie to your account (using an ancient IBM computer from the 80s). Then you head back to the store and drop the DVD in the drop box. Once you're done, you just do it all over again.
As the number of DVD players decreased, the final Blockbuster store has had to change its business model. Unlike the stores from 20 years ago, this Blockbuster now relies mainly on merchandise sales and tourism. Even though it is different, it is still a functional store where anyone can go.
You can set up a free Blockbuster account with a valid ID. You'll even get a hand-crafted card from Blockbuster staff as a souvenir of your membership.
Blockbuster may be slowly fading away, but you can still get your hands on some iconic merchandise. Hoodies, shirts and socks are available in the blue and yellow colours of the former movie rental company. Some of the items even have the famous "Be kind, rewind" motto printed on them.
What are your thoughts on the debate of streaming services vs DVDs?
Last updated: 24/07/2022