If movie-streaming seems like Goliath, Blockbuster video store owners are an industry’s Davids still fighting to keep the brand alive.
This week, there are three stores remaining, but by next week there will only be one store open for business — in Bend, Oregon.
Alaska’s last two Blockbuster stores — one in Anchorage and another in Fairbanks — announced they would officially close on Sunday.
Sandi Harding, the Bend store’s general manager, told CNN she was surprised her store was the last one open.
“It’s pretty exciting that we are the last holdout,” she said.
A bit of nostalgia
Bend’s Blockbuster looks just like stores from years ago — yellow on the inside and employees sporting blue shirts. They even have floppy disks and old computer systems, Harding told CNN.
“It’s very nostalgic,” she said. “We have a bunch of 19-year-olds working here — it’s fun explaining to them what a floppy disk is.”
The shelves are stacked with movies, ranging from titles as old as “Citizen Kane” to as new as “The Quiet Place,” which was released on Tuesday.
Every Tuesday morning Harding buys the newest titles to stock the store.
“I go out at 6-7 o’clock in the morning buying the new movies, getting what people want, trying to stay relevant and keep our customers happy,” she told CNN.
She said loyal customers and tourists have helped to keep her store open.
“Daily, we have people coming in and going, ‘Oh my gosh. you’re a Blockbuster. How are you still here?'” Harding said.
And, she added, they plan on sticking around.
“We all have licensing agreements and leases, but as of now we have no plans on closing,” she said.
Alaska was the last frontier
By April 2017, 10 stores existed across the entire US. While most states got rid of them years ago, Alaska was still holding onto the largest cluster of Blockbusters.
Some credit its persistence to the state’s long, frigid winters or the expensive internet prices that leave residents looking for other options.
Others say there’s just something nostalgic about renting a DVD.
“It is sad to say goodbye to our dedicated customers. We have thought of you as family for the past 28 years,” Blockbuster Alaska wrote on its Facebook page on Thursday.
“It just breaks your heart, you know?” Kevin Daymude, Blockbuster Alaska general manager Kevin Daymude told CNN affiliate KTVA.
Five years ago, there were 13 stores across The Last Frontier state. Three years after that, four of the 13 had closed. And since then, its store count has continued to slowly dwindle.
Alaska’s Wasilla, North Pole and Soldotna stores, along with another one in Anchorage, have all closed shop for good this year, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver wanted to help out, so in May, he sent the second Anchorage store some Russell Crow movie memorabilia, including a leather jockstrap he wore in the 2005 film “Cinderella Man.” It brought a lot of national attention, but it wasn’t enough to keep the store afloat.
Rewind to the 1990s
Blockbuster was the king of movie and video game rentals in 1990s.
The once-supreme rental chain was a staple in American strip malls and shopping centers, encapsulating a labyrinth of at least 7,000 movies in each store. People would flock to the shop on Friday nights, hoping to get the last copy of their favorite film or the latest release before it got snagged by someone else.
At its peak in 2004, the company boasted its 9,000 locations. But as Netflix, Redbox and other video-on-demand services began to pop up, the business struggled to compete in an age that favored digital. After all, some argue, why go to all the trouble if you can just rent a movie from your couch?
Blockbuster gave in and declared bankruptcy in 2010, and its remaining 1,700 stores were bought by Dish Network in 2011.
After that, things kept going downhill. In 2013, the store said it would shut down 300 stores and cut 3,000 jobs.
The remaining Alaska stores will officially shut their doors for good on Sunday, but they will reopen on Monday for inventory sales that will run through July and August.