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After overcoming the streaming era, the world's sole remaining Blockbuster is surviving a global pandemic

by Khyle Deen. Published Fri 15 May 2020 23:01

In Bend, Oregon, there's one Blockbuster video store still standing. The last remaining Blockbuster in the entire world. Surviving the streaming era, it is now facing the global pandemic that is the coronavirus.

The store's longtime general manager Sandi Harding has said that the store's lights remain on by making thes store as safe as possible. In an interview, Harding stated that due to the local DVD distributor being closed, she ventures out to major retailers with her mask and gloves on and purchases new films for her store.

“The big title for next week is ‘Call of the Wild,” says Harding. “I usually start out with 30 copies on DVD, and 12 to 14 Blu-Ray. I’ll go to Walmart, Target, Fred Meyer, every retailer we have here in town, and I’ll only get five or 10 from each one. They don’t like me very much if I come in and just wipe out their shelves, so I try to be conscientious of that, and make sure that I leave movies for their regular customers as well.”

When the pandemic first broke out, Harding had to close the Blockbuster store as it became impossible to prevent people overcrowding in the section full of new releases. The store soon reopened, offering curbside pickup or the first time in its history. Movie rentals and purchases could be made over the phone, where a Blockbuster worker "would clean the DVD case with Clorox wipes, put it in a Ziplock bag, and take it to their car.”

Sandi had to close the Blockbuster for a second time, in order to make the store safe enough to let customers inside. The store's owners continued to pay the entire staff. The store was made as safe and social-distance friendly once Harding and her team "started taping social distancing markers and directional arrows on the floors, DIY-ing their own Clorox wipes out of heavy-duty shop towels, and stocking up masks and gloves.”

According to Harding, business at the Blockbuster picked up and returned to normal after it opened with safety guidelines in place. The one notable difference Harding is noticing is in the viewing habits of her customers. “At first it was ‘Outbreak,’ ‘Contagion,’ and any pandemic movie out there, but now it’s pretty much everything…They probably could’ve found the movie they’re looking for [on a streaming service], but they don’t have to: they can come here, and we’ve got it.”


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