Funding Friday: The Last Blockbuster

We’ve been talking about the “over the top” video business and other related subjects here at AVC.

But this documentary is about something whose time has come and gone.

The video rental store.

I backed this project to make a documentary about The Last Blockbuster earlier this week.

I can’t wait to watch it when it comes out.


Comments (Archived):

  1. awaldstein

    I’ll check it out.To me, the store that I am most nostalgic about from my youth is the record store. Literally going every day to wait for the records to come out. Usually driven by the weird bootlegs of the day which where 33rpms cut to a 45 size.

    1. Pointsandfigures

      I’d walk through, flip records and long for them since I couldn’t afford them. Go out, hustle up some lawn mowing business and then buy one. There are still albums (I still call them that) I haven’t bought that I’d like to own.

      1. awaldstein

        The pizza shop i worked out after school was right next to the record shop in my neighborhood.I remember distinctly buying dozens of early records, Dylan, Hendrix, Blues Project, Even Dozen Jug Band, Jr Wells and on and on that changed my perception of the world.Good stuff to think about.

          1. LE

            They probably know Gary Lozoff who owned 3rd Street Jazz and Rock in Philly. And Jerry Gordon who started it.…Gary bought the store from the guy who started it Jerry Gordon. I think Jerry’s father had a wholesale store in the neighborhood (as I have mentioned same street that Jim Cramer’s father had his wholesale box operation International Packaging Products).http://www.myphiladelphiast…The above story is not correct it says he sold it in 1979 and he definitely sold it later actually to his lawyer (Gary Lozoff above) around the time that CD’s began to replace Vinyl probably mid 1980’s. Lozoff was a bit naive and ended up going out of business and back into a law practice.

  2. John Lowery

    What’s interesting to me is that so many people seem to think that this documentary is about a concept (the video rental store) whose time has come and gone rather than Blockbuster – a company whose time has come and gone. Keith Hoogland still runs over 700 Family Video stores located in small towns all across the midwest. When I tell people about Family Video, most seem genuinely shocked that there’s still that many video rental stores around in the US. To me, their shock says something about (at least) two Americas.

    1. PhilipSugar

      Thank you! I am usually the one pointing this out.I had people from Britain, China, Thailand, Singapore, Sydney, Mumbai, and Dubai in my office this week. (Hosted a meeting) The office is on a 25,000 student University that has a very elite, wealthy, east coast liberal student body (along with many foreign students). My office is there because I love being on a University for so many reasons.But twenty minutes away as you cross the Mason Dixon line life changes drastically. Most people work in factories, trades, or farms. My house is there because there are so many reasons I love living there.What amazes is that I would think the first group would understand there is a second group. Not a ranking order just my comment order, but a huge vulnerability is that many people think this is a ranking order.The second group understands there actually is the first group. They don’t really understand, but are nice about it. (hey Phil where were those ferners from)

      1. LE

        What amazes is that I would think the first group would understand there is a second group.Have you ever taken your kids away on an Island Vacation? You leave the airport and you pass all sorts of poor areas in the cab or the shuttle bus. The kids lookout the window (or you tell them to) and it makes little impact even short term. And even if it does have any impact that is lost later when you are at the resort.There is nothing wrong with that either. Honestly it’s no different for me. I don’t wake up every morning and think I am lucky because I am not living in a third world country. Or don’t have some dreaded disease. Or don’t have what I have. That is the way most people are. It’s a benefit survival wise to be like that (the twitching cat you ignore).Every now and then I find myself seeing people who have vastly more and thinking cynical thoughts. In particular that Jet show that I have said I love. A rich guy is buying his college age daughter (that’s right she is in college) a jet of her own for a few million. I think ‘wow that is spoiled!’. Then I think ‘well I guess people with less than me could feel my kids are spoiled for what I have given them’. Right? It’s all relative. Like wherever you are is the ‘right’ place to be.The fact that others have more doesn’t automatically mean your life sucks. I mean it could but not always. Having more material goods or even air conditioning or your own jet shouldn’t be a need just because others have that benefit.

        1. PhilipSugar

          Totally disagree. I bring stacks of $1 bills for my kids to tip. They get it.

          1. Richard

            Smart dad

          2. LE

            I am not talking about the help at the resort. I am talking about people living (and w/o jobs) on the way to the resort.But your children may be unusual (based on the way you raised them) I fail to believe that most parents do anything but pay lip service ie ‘charity theater’ in this type of situation. This is like me talking about my stepkids cleaning the kitchen floor to perfection. I realize that is highly unusual (especially with step kids).The people working at the resort (and getting tips) have a job and are most likely not living in those ‘shacks’ that you see.After all how many people (young or even middle aged) cared about what happened to the people in Puerto Rico living in the hills (or not near the city) who lost power and access to basic necessities? Honestly almost nobody. They were more concerned with the causes of the day that they think are the important things in life that are (and this is the point) more relatable to them. [1][1] (Case in point is the front page story about Thomas Frieden today which alleges that he grabbed the backside of some women he has apparently known for 20 years prior to going out on a double date and got arrested and is doing the perp walk.)

          3. PhilipSugar

            My kids fully understand. We do go out in the DR. And those people in the resorts while “relatively” lucky work six days a week 12-16hrs a day and make $6-$7 a day. We go out in the country. I cannot understand why people don’t tip. Just can’t get it. My “offsite” for those guests? Bowling, shooting, and crabbing. Maybe that is part of the reason I do manual labor and have an old truck.

    2. CJ

      There was one of those pretty close to me for a bit, it just closed in the last 6 months or so.*edit – After a bit of Google, I see why. The company is based about a 30 min drive from me.

  3. Mac

    Blockbuster + drone delivery. That would have been cool. Timing.

  4. Mike Zamansky

    My first job in high school was as a delivery boy for The Video Room ( They were the first to do video tape delivery on the upper east side. That was around 1980 or so. I waked by the original site last year and they were still in business. I’ve been meaning to stop by the next time I pass by. Wonder how they’ve evolved to stick around so long.

    1. jason wright

      what’s your avatar?

      1. Mike Zamansky

        It’s me :-)Or at least superhero anime me.One of my students drew it and gave it to me back in 1993 or so.

        1. jason wright

          we need more superheroes 🙂

    2. awaldstein

      Lots of legacy odd businesses are the result of massively long commercial leases. See it where i live in TriBeCa where you got to wonder how is this possible–the answer is almost always these legacy leases.

  5. Pointsandfigures

    Some things that happen in culture have staying power-and even are indelible on our minds. I don’t think the video store is one of those since it had such a short lifespan. Although, my opinion isn’t strong.By the way, I have yards and yards of video on several formats, what’s the best way to save them to a digital file that won’t degrade?

    1. Girish Mehta

      Agree, I don’t know if the video store is a cultural nostalgia icon. Although nostalgia is an entirely personal experience, and one person’s nostalgia is different from another’s.I also wonder how many people think about Blockbuster without thinking of late fees.Separately, this reminded me of a movie I saw this year called Kodachrome (Ed Harris. The last store in the US processing kodachrome & about to shut down). Ironically – on Netflix.

  6. kirklove

    Going to BB was such a little magical experience. It was fun to see people and families all checking out films. It felt communal. I miss that.We used to have an independent one a few blocks from us on Smith St, I was a member, it went under last year. Miss that, too.Netflix is great, but it ain’t the same experience.

  7. jason wright

    ‘block’ – what goes around comes around.

  8. Richard

    Capturing 100X on the way down is a blue ocean.

  9. Frank W. Miller

    I have to return some video tapes.

    1. Girish Mehta

      Be Kind Rewind.

  10. Tom Labus

    I don’t know if people go to libraries anymore but considering the times we live they should be packed.

    1. Girish Mehta

      “considering the times we live they should be packed..”- elaborate Tom ?

      1. Tom Labus

        With some much BS being tossed around, you’d think people would want some historical context. Read some history and financial history to gauge the accuracy of official statements. I wish I knew!!!

        1. Girish Mehta

          yes, thats what I thought you meant. Its a sentiment I have expressed offline a few times as well.

    2. Amar

      Austin recently unveiled a grand public library downtown. It was way over budget and over schedule __ but__ it is extremely well done. Our libraries are surprisingly well used and even more so when they are a visitor attraction.Net-Net: Yes people are definitely using libraries 🙂 I know this because we have two little ones and their taste in literature does not lend itself well to books we want to buy and keep. My wife and I though absolutely want to feed the reading habit to the hilt – enter the public library. We use it a lot and it is rarely empty.

      1. Tom Labus

        This is great to hear. Congrats that your kids are readers

    3. CJ

      We have a great library with no late fees. We use it often, but should still use it more. It really is awesome.

    4. awaldstein

      Both my brothers live in rural NJ, both are part of the Library oversight group and they are a crucial part of the community.Surprised me as I had a very urban bias.

  11. LE

    This is definitely a project I will back. Honestly I am tempted to pay the $1500 and be in the movie. Cheap. [1] I am amazed at how many of the interviews shown mimic my thoughts over the years about the experience of renting movies at Blockbuster. [2] One issue was always discovery. What do I rent? [3]Although Netflix hasn’t completely fixed the discovery problem they have come really close. And the long form content on Netflix means time wise it makes less sense to watch a 2 hour film. Why? Because you can spend the same time deciding if you like a series (give it 20 minutes let’s say then move on if not happy to another choice) but then have 10 to 20 hours of entertainment (vs. 2 hours for the same time investment in a film).Not to mention that Netflix knows exactly what people like just by analyzing how often they play how they stop and start a film and how quickly they binge it and where they go afterwards. It has correctly identified that I like subtitled films and is presenting me with more series of the same (this isn’t a sophistication thing with me I just like to watch faces and it’s better and more interesting and less distracting to do so when the voice isn’t American). The networks and the traditional model is toast honestly.[1] But I don’t feel like flying to Bend OR and I don’t want to work the counter and I don’t want to be on film. Hah but otherwise…it’s very tempting and a great reward. They should give an option to setup the filming in other places. Or maybe be able to send a video you make and include that as a very short clip. (Sort of like product promotion in a movie. Actually that would be a good idea to because it mimics what happens in films (and was parodied by Mike Meyers can’t remember the film though..)[2] Noting that Blockbusters near me and the ones I am familiar with were a great addition to a strip center. Not unusual to see a chinese restaurant or pizza place next door or close buy. So you pickup the Chinese and rent a film. I wonder how the others in the center were impacted when the blockbuster draw ended? Imagine a restaurant with a long lease. Now your ‘big box’ is gone and you don’t have the same traffic.[3] Even back then I never understood why they didn’t have sections grouped (or an index) by ‘if you like Godfather you will also like Goodfellas’. The reason? They were already profitable and plucking the low hanging fruit. So they didn’t need to do that.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      For [3] and something that should be much more effective than what you outlined, what is in computer science books, papers, and courses in recommendation systems, what is at YouTube, and anything in the Netflix challenge, I want you on my alpha test list!!!!! And, it’s for search, discovery, recommendation, curation, notification for essentially everything with an Internet URL and not just movies. Now, instead of working on this project, out to get some exercise!!!