The Last Blockbuster, last year's PopMotion Pictures documentary about the last surviving Blockbuster Video store, is now playing on Netflix -- and fans are delighting in the irony of it all. The movie, from director Taylor Morden, started as a look at the last handful of remaining franchise Blockbuster stores, but during the course of production, all but one of them shut down, leaving only the Bend, Oregon location open. It features interviews with former Blockbuster executives, current and former franchisees, as well as members of the Bend community, actors and filmmakers, and Blockbuster's self-appointed #1 detractor, Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman.
One of the things the film sets out to do, is to dispel the 1:1 connection most people make between the rise of Netflix and the fall of Blockbuster. At its height, Blockbuster had over 9,000 locations and for a time, stores were opening at a rate of about one per day. By the time Netflix became the #1 choice for movie rentals, Blockbuster's once-unquestioned power in the market had dwindled to near zero. But the film notes that it wasn't Netflix that killed Blockbuster -- or at least not exclusively.
"The irony of our indie movie about Blockbuster Video and VHS renting being available to stream on Netflix is not lost on us," Morden told ComicBook. "Someone at Netflix clearly has a good sense of humor about the whole situation, but I guess as they say, history is written by the winners. It's fun to think about a fantasy world where Blockbuster and Netflix can peacefully coexist."
In addition to The Last Blockbuster, Morden directed Pick It Up!: Ska in the '90s and the Project 88 anthology, which saw dozens of contributors re-create Back to the Future Part Two in one-minute chunks using a variety of styles, media, and actors. He also directed a short film, Cooped Up, in which Falk Hentschel and Ciara Renee reprise their roles as Hawkman and Hawkgirl from DC's Legends of Tomorrow (although unofficially). The short, which was written by this reporter, begins with a despondent Hawkman calling the Bend Blockbuster during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can see it above.
The management missteps that led to Blockbuster's demise -- the most well-known, but certainly not the only one, was the decision to pass on an opportunity to buy Netflix early in its lifespan -- are enumerated not only in The Last Blockbuster but also in Built to Fail: The Inside Story of Blockbuster's Inevitable Bust, a new book out this week from longtime franchise owner Alan Payne, who appears in The Last Blockbuster. Payne is sharply critical of the parade of executives who followed after the retirement of longtime Blockbuster chief H. Wayne Huizenga, who bought Blockbuster shortly after it was founded and built it up into an entertainment juggernaut, then cashed out when it was at the apex of its power and value.
Baseball fans might remember that he did the same thing with the Florida Marlins MLB team. Huizenga, who founded Waste Management and AutoNation, is credited with founding Blockbuster in the form that we all know it, and thus regarded as the only person ever to found three Fortune 500 companies.
"I hope lots of people watch our little movie and enjoy it, as long as they remember to rewind it when they are done and bring it back by noon on Wednesday," joked Morden.
As of right now, you can't get The Last Blockbuster via Netflix's DVD-by-mail service, the original cornerstone of the streaming giant's business, but you can buy a feature-rich Blu-ray, DVD, or VHS from the PopMotion website or Blockbuster Video in Bend.