Blockbuster Video once had about 9,000 video rental stores. Today, there is one—in Bend, Oregon.
The store earned that distinction when a Blockbuster in Perth, Australia, closed in 2019, and stores in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska, closed in 2018.
Republican Senator Tim Knopp, right, represents District 27, which encompasses the central Oregon communities of Bend, Redmond, Sunriver and Tumalo.
Which means his district is home to the world’s last Blockbuster.
“I believe it’s about the people and the place,” Knopp says when asked how the store managed to survive in Bend and nowhere else. “It’s still there because of the local ownership, and many of us are old school and love to rent DVDs.”
The Bend store opened in 1992 as a Pacific Video store and became a Blockbuster franchise store eight years later. A decade after that, Blockbuster declared bankruptcy and closed its corporate stores in 2014.
But the Bend store owners kept renewing the lease and renewing the franchise agreement with DISH, which bought Blockbuster in 2011. The store still has a loyal membership, and it got a big boost in popularity in March when Netflix debuted its documentary “The Last Blockbuster.” While the movie did cover, among other topics, the role streaming services such as Netflix itself played in the demise of the DVD rental businesses, the documentary also generated nostalgia for video renting, and bolstered the Bend Blockbuster as a tourist destination.
“I go about twice a month to Blockbuster, and nearly every time I go, people are outside by the sign taking selfies,” says Knopp, whose last rental was season two of “The Crown.” “We would miss Blockbuster if it closed.”
The city touts it on its website, although Knopp is unsure about its economic impact. “But it always seems busy,” he says.
And when people are done with their videos, Knopp says there’s plenty to see and do in and around Bend, which occupies Oregon’s mountainous, high-desert geographic center, an area known for outdoor recreation.
“The district has everything outdoors you can ask for—lakes, rivers, parks, forest land, hiking trails and rock climbing that are some of the best in the country,” he says. “You can snow ski in the morning and water ski in the afternoon and fish at sunrise or sunset, all in the same day.”
Knopp says his district still has a small-town feel even though it’s growing fast.
“Central Oregon is a special place,” he says. “And though I have traveled to most states, there’s no place I’ve found that has this much beauty and four seasons anywhere in America.”
Or a Blockbuster.
The area is also represented in the Oregon Legislature by Representative Jason Kropf (D).
Nora Caley is a Denver-based freelancer.