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Two Portlanders Converted an Old Willamette Week Box Into a Neighborhood Movie Swap

The container at Southeast 75th Avenue and Division Street has become something of a community hub.

In a city littered with free libraries, free fridges, free toy swaps, and piles of general free stuff deposited on residential street corners, the idea of a free movie exchange seems overdue.

Thomas Mosher agrees.

So when he and his housemate, Stephen Katulak, came across an article about the fledgling Free Blockbuster movement late last year, they figured it was time to introduce the concept to Portland’s urban topography. As film buffs with expansive DVD collections, Mosher and Katulak had the inventory. All they needed was a newspaper box to put them in—preferably one already colored a shade of blue similar to the nearly extinct video rental chain.

Thankfully, Portland is full of those as well: A neighbor discovered a disused Willamette Week box in their backyard when they moved in, and donated it to the cause. Operating on a “take a movie, leave a movie” model, the container at Southeast 75th Avenue and Division Street has become something of a community hub.

“I never talked to anyone until I put the box out there,” Mosher says. “If I’m out in the yard, I end up in a conversation.” (Another box has since sprung up in Beaumont-Wilshire.)

So what’s in stock? Over the past few months, it’s varied from a stash of BMX tapes to an instructional paddle-making video to eight copies of the 1997 action classic Face/Off. Some homemade stuff has appeared as well, which raises obvious concerns. But Mosher is hopeful no one is abusing the idea.

“It’s an honor system,” he says, “so, hopefully, people aren’t putting terrible stuff in there.”