Every once in a while, at the Blockbuster in Sandy, Ore., a car will park in front of the store, snap a picture and drive away.
"They're like, 'You guys are still around?," says Alexis Phelps, an employee since March.
The Sandy Blockbuster is one of about 10 Blockbusters left in the world. The video rental franchise filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and the interior of the store seems to have frozen in time. Seven-year-old neon signs advertise Xbox 360 games. The screens play Lilo & Stitch. Today, the aisles are mostly empty, even with rows of new DVD releases (this week it's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword) lining the walls. The only other person in the store is Phelps, who starts each morning on the job by calling customers to tell them their rentals are late.
"Some people don't even answer," she says. "Which I'm cool with."
Redbox started the downfall of Blockbuster, which was finished off by the rise of streaming. Since then, it's become an ironic fascination, blending nostalgia, schadenfreude and a supremely memeable aesthetic. A Twitter account called "Last Blockbuster" publishes tweets like "Hope you all had a nice, relaxing summer weekend. We just pawned our gumball machine," and "Asking us why we don't have Blu-rays is like asking a homeless person why they don't have a MacBook Pro."
The handful of video stores that continue to hold on do so because they're meeting a need.
In the rural area surrounding Sandy and the foothills of Mount Hood, internet service is too spotty for easy streaming. That's true of all the remaining Blockbusters. There are still at least 10 stores open, three of which are in rural Oregon. One is in Texas. In Alaska, there are a whopping six.
"We don't have unlimited data," explains an Alaska store manager.
Since 2000, the Sandy Blockbuster has been owned by Andy Anderson. When he bought the location, originally called Star Video, there were over 9,000 Blockbuster stores.
"It became clear that we needed national brand awareness to compete against the likes of Hollywood Video," Anderson says of Star Video. "Blockbuster was the logical choice as they were the largest."
According to Anderson, his store maintains business mostly because of its location. People traveling to Mount Hood cabins sometimes stop in for a rental, and Anderson says locals enjoy browsing movies in a physical store instead of on streaming sites.
"It's not uncommon for visitors to stop in to check us out and often comment on how much they miss their local video store in their hometown," he says.
It's almost a tourist destination in its own right. Visiting the Sandy Blockbuster brings back vague memories of arguing with friends over which horror movie to rent and paying $15 in late fees. It feels a little like the Island of Misfit Toys—vacant rows of DVDs waiting to be picked up.
Not everyone feels so nostalgic.
"This one doesn't really remind me of the one I went to when I was little," Phelps says.
SEE IT: Blockbuster Video, 37417 US-26, Sandy, 503-668-3575. Open 10 am-9 pm Sunday through Thursday; 10 am-10 pm Fridays and Saturdays.