As Alaska’s famed frontier Blockbusters go dark there’s 1 store left in entire U.S.
Alaska’s last two Blockbuster stores — community gathering spots and nostalgic tourist attractions that got a big plug from HBO’s John Oliver — are shuttering. That leaves just one of the once ubiquitous video rental hub open in the entire U.S.
The franchises in Anchorage and Fairbanks will close for rentals after Sunday night and reopen Tuesday for video liquidation sales through the end of August, said Kevin Daymude, general manager of Blockbuster Alaska, according to the Associated Press. The closings were confirmed in a post on Blockbuster Alaska’s Facebook page.
The news magazine program CBS Sunday Morning in 2017 aired a feature on the significance of the community gathering place that these Blockbusters offered in Alaska, where movie nights and other events supplemented rentals. Their existence, long after the dinosaur retail chain was extinct in much of the U.S., was prolonged by relatively strong customer demand. That’s because the fast internet service needed for streaming entertainment, such as Netflix NFLX, -3.54% , comes at a hefty premium in Alaska compared to the lower 48. Even with the unique demand, business isn’t strong enough to go on.
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The Alaska stores did go down fighting, however. The closures come just two months after the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” sent a jockstrap worn by Russell Crowe in the 2005 movie “Cinderella Man” and other items to the Anchorage store, which displayed them in an effort to drive more traffic.
“You would not believe how much business we got just from that memorabilia alone,” Daymude told the AP. “I can’t thank John Oliver or his show enough.”
The first Blockbuster video rental store in the U.S. opened in 1985, and at its peak the company had about 9,000 stores worldwide. In its heyday, Blockbuster had 15 stores in Alaska, Daymude said. Some stores in more remote, less populated parts of the state began closing in the early 2000s as most Blockbuster stores began to vanish across the U.S. The corporation filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
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The Alaska closures will leave the Blockbuster in Bend, Ore., as the sole holdout U.S.-wide.
“We have no plans on closing anytime soon,” the store’s general manager Sandi Harding told the AP.
And for anyone up for a hop in this cultural time machine without the risk of late fees, there’s a jesting Twitter account for “The Last Blockbuster,” a store said to be located between 3rd and Main in the Oak Lawn Shopping Center in Anytown, USA.
Rachel Koning Beals
Rachel Koning Beals is a MarketWatch news editor in Chicago.
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