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‘The Last Blockbuster’ a love letter to video rental stores

If you grew up in the 80s, 90s or early 2000s, you very likely took part in the ritual of trekking to your local video store to rent a movie on a regular basis. The documentary “The Last Blockbuster” takes that experience, right down to the sound of the “click” of a closing video cassette case, and packages it into an entertaining and nostalgic 86-minute run time.
“The Last Blockbuster” combines several story threads into its narrative but the heart of its story is Sandi Harding, manager of the last Blockbuster store on the planet, and the everyday issues she faces in operating her store. We follow Sandi as she does everything from reshelving movies and buying candy for the store to doing maintenance on the now-ancient computers the store uses to track its inventory.
Meanwhile, different figures from within the video store industry unfurl a history of the rise and fall of Blockbuster and celebrities including voice actor James Arnold Taylor, comedian Brian Posehn and filmmaker/podcast host Kevin Smith wax romantic about everything from working at video stores to how video rental fit into the dating practices of the time.
This film is an interesting history lesson about how businesses are built and how they can fail. It also punches holes in the theory that Blockbuster’s fall was caused by streaming outlets like Netflix. It even highlights decisions that show that CEOs aren’t always as smart as they thigh think they are.
It’s also frequently funny, with two big highlights being legendary Troma Films co-founder Lloyd Kaufman railing against Blockbuster for not carrying his movies and a business meeting scene reenacted by puppets.
But I got two main things out of “The Last Blockbuster.” First, it illustrates the role the video stores played in so many communities. Not only were they venues for entertainment, but they were also social hubs where people could get together to learn about one another and build relationships. It highlights how customers might come to trust recommendations made by store employees and open themselves up to new art. It shows how couples could learn about one another and grow closer through picking out movies together. It turns out, video stores were a good source of social interaction and the world is worse off without them.
The second thing I got out of this movie is an understanding of how older folks, like my dad and mom, might feel watching the world change over time. Watching “The Last Blockbuster” brought a flood of warm memories about how I fell in love with “Star Wars” by whining at dad until he rented it and watching it over and over and over. Or the stupid ritual my friends and I used to do where we’d give an angel choir-style “Hallelujah” every time we passed the one copy of “Decline of the Western Civilization Pt. 2: The Metal Years” in the entire town of Rexburg.
It’s crazy to think about because time leaves nothing unscathed, but “The Last Blockbuster” rhapsodizes a way of life the was extremely important to me and I have vivid memories about but that is nearly extinct. People can still spend hours browsing Netflix looking for something to watch or trek out to the nearest Redbox, but it’s not the same social experience. That thought makes me a little sad.
If you’re in the mood for something fun, funny and a little bittersweet, “The Last Blockbuster” might make for a perfect evening. Just make sure you have some popcorn and Red Vines on hand. And maybe some tissues, just in case it makes you emotional.
”The Last Blockbuster” is currently available to stream on Netflix.
The post ‘The Last Blockbuster’ a love letter to video rental stores appeared first on East Idaho News.

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