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Hay’s Daze: The last blockbuster on earth


A flash from the past: It’s Friday night and the whole fam-damily is headed to the store, just like every Friday night. And we’re not just aimlessly heading to just any store – we are aimfully heading to the VIDEO store. The Rotten Kids are in elementary school and/or Junior High and the Better Half and Yours Truly are much younger and, generally speaking, much more enthusiastic about things like Friday night than we are nowadays. And nowadays the Rotten Kids are much too fairly far flung for Friday family film festivals.

But those trips to Blockbuster and Video View and other virtuous VHS palaces were a slam-dunk highlight adventure of anticipation long before Netflix took over the world. The thought of a Blockbuster bag full of movies for the weekend was mind-blowing. And the Rotten Kids used to get pretty excited about it too.

Remember all those shelves of thick colorful VHS tape cases containing the latest movies, the must-sees, the gotta-see-agains, the what-the-heck-is-this titles, and rows and rows of cartoons and video games? I know I do. One RK would head for the Anything Like Starwars section, the other one would make a beeline for the Disney Princess and Impossibly Cute Animations area. Me? I would linger long and longingly at the New Releases wall, staring at all the movies I really wanted to see only to see that every single one had already been checked out. But we would always end up with something to stuff in the ole VHS machine and press PLAY that weekend.

And since Friday night was typically my night to cook supper, on the way home I’d steer the ole Toyota van over to the nearest Pie establishment and pick up a pizza. Good times.

I’m on about all this on account of there was a news piece on the car radio the other day that told me that the very last video rental store in the large metropolis of Vancouver announced that it is closing. It was a big enough deal to be a national media story, and I suppose it really is a sign of changing times. The store, Black Dog Video, has been in business for 26 years and has a collection of 17,000 films. All those movies are on DVD, which as you may recall, replaced VHS tapes, and now those DVDs for all intents and purposes are being replaced by movies from cyberspace. Streaming services – Netflix, Prime, Disney, Crave etc etc - there are a ton of them floating around on your TV and computer screens, champing at the bit to take your monthly dollars in exchange for the honor of sitting on your couch, aiming a remote control, thumbing a few buttons and – voila! – you have the instant choice of 300 movies none of which you want to see.

I looked it up and at during the Blockbuster Boom they had over 9,000 stores and 65 million customers. It was valued at $3 billion and get this – Blockbuster apparently snagged over $800 million in late fees a year for those who didn’t return their videos on time. I believe most of that was from the Hay family.

The first Blockbuster store opened in 1985 and the company officially said The End in 2017. But if you’re really really pathologically nostalgic about the good old days of the Blue and Yellow video store there is one remaining hope. Head on down to Bend, Oregon (pop. 106,839). There, on Revere Avenue is the world’s last remaining Blockbuster video rental store. It’s a franchise with 1,200 titles and 4,000 regular rental members.

But if you go all the way down there, don’t bring your rentals home. The late fees will kill ya.

Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Reach out to Harley with any thoughts or ideas at