Synopsis: Over 600 miles of Texas roadways, culminating in a final showdown at one of the very last remaining Blockbuster Videos in the world. A perfect end to an era of childhood nostalgia, when the perfect Saturday night began with a stroll through fluorescent-lit aisles lined with hundreds of VHS and DVD titles...all calling your name! Blockbuster, you will be sorely missed!
THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER NIGHT LOGO
In September of 2016, I watched a video that blew my mind: Blockbusters still existed!
Granted, there weren't many, and they were falling like flies, but a few had managed to hang on in the southernmost tip of Texas, right across from the border of Mexico in the Rio Grande Valley. By April of 2017, they were all gone, except for one -- Just one. If we were going to do this, it was time to move, or forever lose the opportunity to bid a proper, respectful farewell to the company that perfected the social aspect of the movie rental experience.
FINAL VICTORY POSTER
One of the most important factors in a roadtrip is assembling the proper coterie for the trip! Nine+ hours in a car heading in one direction...You need the right peeps for the job! You need people capable of inane roadtrip banter. You need that one guy that reads all the billboads out loud! You need that girl that keeps drinking water and then has to stop, only to then buy more water! And you need people to share bags and bags of gas-station-purchased beef jerky!
Mostly, though, you need people that understand the dynamics of sharing a small space with other people on the road for many, many hours without freaking out and bailing from a car doing 85mph. The idea was a tough sell not only from that standpoint alone, but the final destination was one that didn't appeal to everyone. Maybe I was the one guy hanging out at Blockbuster back in the day when other people were busy going to parties. Dunno. But few folks in my peer set shared my sentimental attachment to Blockbuster Video, which is why I mostly positioned the trip from a "It's all about the Journey - Not the Destination!" angle. Ralph Waldo Emerson would have been proud, if he had ever actually spoke those words.
Getting the Blockbuster Font was pretty easy, and once I had that, it was just a matter of whipping up a cool logo for the event based on Blockbuster's iconic broken ticket treatment and then making a promo poster to send out to some select folks in an effort to really jazz them up! Before long, I had the "perfect six", the route, and an amazing three-story AirB&B to house us during our two-night stay in Edinburg, Texas! It was going to be epic!
What fun would a roadtrip be if everything went according to plan? We went with two vehicles, and lost one windshield on the way down (flying rock), but the trip down and back was a helluva good time!
The original plan was to buy a DVD player from a local Target, get a Blockbuster Card, rent a DVD, and reserve one night for one last, genuine "Blockbuster Night" - Friends sitting around a large screen TV (The AirB&B had a dedicated cinema on the 3rd floor) with copious amounts of alcohol, watching a flick!
Well, we ended up not doing that, but that wasn't a bad thing. Honestly, we were too hyped to even consider watching a DVD by that point. We timed our arrival to Blockbuster at sunset, because everything looks better when it's bathed in a Michael Bay -esque orange glow of a setting Texas sun! Makes for great pics. Also, maybe something symbolic about the sun setting on a bygone era? Sure - toss that in!
The staff inside couldn't have been more accommodating, and they were super tolerant of us pinballing off the walls and bouncing from aisle to aisle for maybe upwards to an hour! As luck would have it, not only did it turn out that this location was the same one featured in the "Blockbusters Exist" video that served as the catalyst for the entire trip, but the guy that filmed it happened to be working the front counter that night! What were the odds of that?? Great guy.
Turns out they don't issue those blue Blockbuster Membership Cards anymore - Those days are over. Wish I hadn't of thrown mine away back in the late 90s. Dammit. If they ever bring back the ability to design your own credit cards one day, maybe I'll make one that looks like a Blockbuster ID Card!
Apparently there sorta already was one, at some point?? Well played, BNC!
The Fake DVD Leave-Behind was a cool idea that never materialized due to time constraints, but I wish I had pulled this off. The idea behind this was to basically create a fake DVD case promoting the road trip as a "movie", and, while inside Blockbuster, surreptitiously slip the DVD case into a slot amongst other films in one of the aisles (documentary section? Historical?) The purpose being not as much mischievous, but rather as a way to pay respect and serve as a symbolic gesture that a piece of me remains in Blockbuster just as Blockbuster will always have a place in my heart! Cool right? Anyways, we didn't do it.
FAKE DVD LEAVE-BEHIND
SOCIAL MEDIA TILE (INSTAGRAM)
In January of 2018, just months after our trip, the Last Blockbuster did its final curtain call, and closed its doors forever. To be fair, this was the last remaining store in Texas, leaving Alaska as ground-zero for the only remaining handful of locations for the one-time king of the home-video viewing industry.
It was the perfect ending to what was a large part of my childhood, and while I'm sad to see it go, I feel I got the closure I needed, and will always have terrific memories of Blockbuster Video.
Long ago, I had regretted not doing the same roadtrip-type approach to tracking own the last remaining Circuit City, but, apparently, they're coming back?? Hey, maybe that means that Blockbuster can, too!!
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