It’s been a long time since we heard from Blockbuster, and you better believe that people are getting sentimental about it.
Once upon a time, in a world before Netflix and WhatsApp and the coronavirus (oh yeah, we went there), there was Blockbuster. Indeed, if you grew up sometime between the 80s and 00s, then the video store no doubt played a big part in your life. If you didn’t, though, then let me paint you a little picture…
You want to watch a movie, but there’s nothing on TV (remember: streaming isn’t a thing yet), and your itty-bitty local cinema is still showing the same four films it’s been playing for weeks now. So, just like that, you and your family decide to take a trip to your local Blockbuster.
Much like a Tardis, it’s bigger on the inside. So much bigger, actually.
Everywhere you look, there are shelves groaning under the weight of VHS tapes, or DVDs, or even video games (depending which era you’ve travelled back to). It smells of popcorn, and carpets, and air-conditioning. Strike that: it smells of endless entertainment possibilities. And, under the fluorescent yellow lights, you and your family split up and delve into the many titles on offer, before reconvening in the middle of the store to duke it out over whose film is going home with you tonight.
Then comes the fun bit: convincing your parents that they don’t want supermarket-bought snacks, but a big tub of Blockbuster popcorn, a bag of sweets, and a couple of tubs of ice cream from their expansive chest freezer. Sometimes you win this battle, sometimes you do not. If you do not, though, there’s probably a conveniently-positioned Domino’s Pizza next door, so you can try your luck there instead.
These films were yours, all yours. You could watch them as many times as you wanted (if you could be bothered to rewind them more than once, that is). Then, just like that, your two weeks would be up, so you’d have to “be kind, rewind” one last time, make the drive back to the video store, post them through the Blockbuster letterbox, and begin the heady process all over again.
Of course, the chain has since dissolved (just like so many of our childhood favourites – here’s looking at you, Argos catalogue), with only one store left standing.
However, in a surprising development, Blockbuster has finally returned to our lives via Twitter (more on why later), and the internet has a lot of feelings about it.
That’s right: perhaps intrigued by the bizarre and unsettling events of 2020, the Blockbuster Twitter account has returned to post and retweet a few messages.
“Just checking in,” it announced breezily.
It was a pleasant interlude in an otherwise thoroughly unpleasant year, so people flocked to social media to share their thoughts on Blockbuster’s unexpected comeback.
“Look, we’re not gonna get all sentimental here, but it’s good to hear from you. You’ve been missed. From Friday night rentals to late fees and forgetting to rewind… you’ve always been in our hearts. A lot has changed since we last saw you. If you need anything, we’re here,” reads a post from MGM Studios.
Another, getting misty-eyed about days gone by, reads: “Friday nights were the bessssttttttttt. Excitement mixed with the soul-crushing defeat of EVEN ONE copy of a movie not being in.”
Elsewhere, a tweet from the official Domino’s account reads: “You and I used to have some wild Friday nights back in the day.”
“I’ve missed you so much. Come back to me,” another patron adds.
And still one more, relying heavily on a Lion King meme (because of course), says simply: “The king has returned.”
Of course, that OG Blockbuster tweet has also prompted some big confessions.
“I’ll never forget hanging out with my parents eating an entire rotisserie chicken on the couch as we watched a movie we rented and forgetting to take it back and anyway I still have a copy of the Parent Trap,” reads one.
“I still have a copy of Beauty And The Beast in my closet,” adds another.
And still one more shares: “I never returned this. How much do I owe you?”
All in all, it was a beautiful nostalgia fest. But Blockbuster is, of course, back for a reason.
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That’s right: the world’s last Blockbuster store manager, Sandi Harding, is listing the store on Airbnb for some 90s-themed sleepover fun. Which sounds… well, it sounds fantastic, in this writer’s opinion.
Unfortunately, though, there’s a catch: you have to be living in Oregon to get involved.
“In appreciation for all that the local community has recently done to support the last-of-its-kind during these uncertain times, this end of summer sleepover will offer movie lovers in Deschutes County, Oregon the chance for a 90s-themed stay to relive the bygone Friday night tradition just as we remember it,” reads a press release about the event.
To celebrate the last Blockbuster in the world and its community, Airbnb will make a donation to the Humane Society of Central Oregon, a longtime partner of the store close to Harding’s heart.
Anyone else suddenly hopeful that Blockbuster might decide to open a sleepover joint here in the UK, too?
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.