World’s last Blockbuster more popular after Netflix show

BEND, OREGON (AP) — The Blockbuster video rental store in Bend, Oregon, soared to international fame when it became the last such franchise on Earth two years ago.

Now, a new Netflix documentary called The Last Blockbuster brought even more interest in the form of visitors, mail and online orders to the unassuming location in a central Oregon strip mall 170 miles east of Portland.

Since the documentary aired on March 15, people from all over the world have sent flowers and called the store just to say “thank you” for staying open. In the backroom, staff members have been busy packaging thousands of online orders for Blockbuster T-shirts, hats and face masks, which are all made by Bend businesses.

The movie focusses on the manager’s day-to-day work running the store, which became the last in the world when the Blockbuster in Perth, Australia, closed two years ago. It was made by two local filmmakers who saw history and nostalgia in the store’s perseverance.

“It’s a little bit crazy, but it’s a very good thing,” Store Manager Sandi Harding told The Bulletin in Bend. “We’ll take a little crazy if it means keeping the store open.”

Harding is the star of the movie, which peaked as high as the number four movie in the United States (US) since it appeared on Netflix on March 15.

Debby Saltzman poses for a photo, in front of the last Blockbuster store with her twin brother, Michael, visiting from Melbourne, Australia, in Bend, Oregon. PHOTO: AP

The Blockbuster video rental store in Bend was already popular when it became the last location on Earth. It drew visitors from across the US and as far as London.

“It’s good for the store. It’s good for the community,” said Harding, who has been stopped in the grocery store by fans who want to take her picture. “And I can learn to live with my newfound fame as long as it doesn’t mess with what we are doing every day.”

The two Bend filmmakers behind the documentary, Taylor Morden and Zeke Kamm, had no idea if the store would stay open when they started filming in 2017. Morden said he has heard from people who call Harding a national treasure and say the store must remain open at all costs. He is pleased to know the film’s attention on Netflix may be what keeps the store open.

“For us to have some small part in helping the store stay open is amazing,” Morden said. “Not a lot of documentaries actually accomplish the goal of their story.”