After a Blockbuster store in Australia closes on March 31, the American city of Bend, Oregon will have the only one left on Earth.
For years, Blockbuster was a big name in the video rental business. The company had thousands of stores in the United States and around the world.
But Blockbuster began to lose money during the 2000s. The company went to court and declared bankruptcy in 2010. By 2014, all company-owned stores had closed. Since then, locally owned Blockbusters have closed, one by one.
Operating the soon-to-be last Blockbuster Video on Earth is not easy.
The computer system uses old disks that only the store's general manager knows how to use. The video rentals are recorded on a kind of aging tape. The tape cannot be replaced because Radio Shack, another once famous store, went out of business.
Sandi Harding has worked at the Blockbuster in Bend for over 15 years and is the store's general manager. She says "stubbornness," is part of the reason the store is still open. "We did everything we could to cut costs and keep ourselves relevant," she said.
Zeke Kamm lives in Bend. He is making a documentary about the store with his friend. He notes that many people who rented videos over the years want to share memories of their experiences. "They remember who they went with and that freedom of walking the aisles," Kamm said.
Kamm explained how Blockbusters were once an important part of small town America. The Blockbuster was the only place that was open past nine at night, and a lot of them stayed open much later, he said. “So children who weren’t hoodlums would come here and look at movies and fall in love with movies.”
On a recent weekday, Michael Trovato of Melbourne, Australia stopped by the Blockbuster store in Bend while visiting his twin sister.
"I miss being able to walk into a Blockbuster or CD store and have that social experience… It's something you don’t get from the slick presentation of a music service or, you know, from the Internet," he said.
The Bend store does not seem to be in danger of closing.
Many people stop by to take pictures. The store sells clothing with the words "Last Blockbuster on the Planet." It even gets gifts from people, including boxes of video tapes, DVDs, and Blockbuster souvenirs.
Recently, Harding has noticed that more children are coming to the store, brought in by their parents who like remembering the past.
Jerry Gilless and his wife, Elizabeth, on a trip to Oregon, recently brought their two children, ages 3 and 5, to the store in Bend. They watched with a smile as their children walked from row to row, looking at movies.
"How could we not stop? It's the last one," said Gilless. "They need to see that not everything's on the iPad."
I'm John Russell.
Gillian Flaccus reported on this story for AP. John Russell adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
rental – adj. of or related to payments made in exchange for borrowing something
bankruptcy – n. a condition of financial failure caused by not having the money that you need to pay your debts
manager – n. a person responsible for directing a a store or business
relevant – adj. relating to a subject in an appropriate way
aisle – n. a passage where people walk through a store, market, etc.
hoodlum – n. a tough and violent criminal
slick – adj. smooth
souvenir – n. a keepsake or remembrance piece
We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.