Calling all ‘80s and ‘90s kids, have I got a documentary for you! The Last Blockbuster, released March 15th on Netflix, tells the story of Blockbuster Video — the fabled provider of movie and video game rental services.
Founded in 1985, Blockbuster expanded quickly and was eventually so big a new store opened every twenty-four hours. In the process, they wound up putting many independent video rental stores out of business by striking deals with film studios. The deals, known as revenue-share deals, allowed Blockbuster to negotiate significantly lower prices than their local counterparts in exchange for a cut of the rental fees.
After years of questionable leadership and fierce competition from Netflix, Redbox, and video on demand services, the company filed for bankruptcy in 2010. The last 300 company-owned stores closed in 2014, and only one franchised store — in Bend, Oregon — remains open for business.
The documentary follows Sandi Harding, the general manager of the Bend store, and chronicles the efforts to stay in business amid a changing landscape. In addition, actor and director Kevin Smith speaks at length about the businesses that Blockbuster drove away and how they inspired his debut film, Clerks. Other notables interviewed for the documentary include Adam Brody, Samm Levine, Ron Funches, Paul Scheer, Doug Benson, and Brian Posehn.
It kind of meandered, but overall the execution was good. This is not, by any means, an expertly made work of art. It feels pretty basic and unremarkable, but that shouldn’t take away from the subject matter and especially the story of the Bend store. I knew a store was still open, but didn’t know any of the particulars and that by far was the most interesting part of this documentary.
I grew up going to Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, so it was a great thrill to relive those years. I also enjoyed the amusing irony of this production being shown on Netflix. In 2000, Blockbuster turned down the chance to purchase Netflix for $50 million. And the rest is history…
It seems like the primary aim of this documentary was to invoke a sense of nostalgia, and on that front it succeeded very well. I give The Last Blockbuster three and a half out of five stars.