Blockbuster — Before, During, and After

Jim LaBate
5 min readApr 22, 2021
Image from Wikimedia

I watched an interesting documentary recently on Netflix called The Last Blockbuster. The movie focuses on the only remaining Blockbuster on the planet. Who knew? Not I.

Like most people, I assumed Blockbuster died off years ago when the two outlets near our home closed. Apparently, though, some remained open longer than others until only one is still open today, located in the rural town of Bend, Oregon, southeast of Portland. The film zooms in on Sandi Harding, the woman who has managed this store for the last 15 years, and the film is definitely worth seeing if you remember having a Blockbuster in your community. As I watched, I couldn’t help but recall not only my personal memories of Blockbuster but also my recollections of renting movies both before and after.


Long before Blockbuster existed, I was excited to hear that a nearby department store had a small video rental section, and my two young daughters and I checked it out immediately. Not surprisingly, the store placed this small venue at the far corner of the building, so we had to walk through the entire store, including the toy section, before we reached the small video counter. I expected to see shelves of videos, much like the book displays at the library, but all we saw was one high-school student standing behind a dark counter, with a collection of printed sheets strewn about.

“How does this work?” I asked.

Handing me one of the stapled packets, he answered, “All the movies are listed in alphabetical order; just tell me what you want to rent, and I’ll go to the back room to get it for you.”

The packet had three pages of single-spaced entries, so I quickly looked to see if they had the one movie our girls really wanted to see: “Beauty and the Beast.”

“Sorry. No way. I know for sure that one is out.”

I glanced at the sheet again, and I saw a lot of old classics, but I really wanted something relatively new, something our girls would enjoy, and something my wife and I had not yet seen.

“Okay, how about –”

When I looked up, I realized the teenager had retreated to the back room to find a movie for another customer. I noticed, too, that this tiny space, about…

Jim LaBate

Jim LaBate works as a writing specialist in The Writing Center at Hudson Valley Community College (HVCC) in Troy, New York.