Once upon a time in cities across the US, one of the most popular destinations on a Friday or Saturday night, alongside the multiplex, was the local blockbuster.
Though it’s long since been superseded by streaming, the rental chain, which went bust more than a decade ago, once held a prime spot on the weekend calendars of families, couples, teens, gamers and solo movie lovers as a place to browse shelves and choose a VHS or DVD to take home – temporarily.
“I spent all Friday night in a blockbuster because I couldn’t decide which movie to go with,” Randall Park recalled The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday before leaving for the world premiere of his new Netflix series blockbuster at the Tudum Theater in Hollywood. “I was one of those people who was there for hours until the staff asked me, ‘Are you sure you don’t need help?’ And finally, I chose the same handful of films that I’d rented over and over again, some that I’d seen a hundred times.”
Park wasn’t alone on a stroll down memory lane last night. Almost every member of the cast and creative team behind it blockbuster was quick to come up with a nostalgic anecdote about how much time they spent scouring the aisles for loan items (or candy). In the series, Park stars alongside Melissa Fumero, Olga Merediz, Tyler Alvarez, Madeleine Arthur and JB Smoove in a story centered around the last remaining location as the hard-working manager struggles to keep the store open amid competition and complicated emotions keep.
blockbuster debuts on Netflix on November 3, and below are the rest of the memories.
“My father came home early from work and picked me, my mother and my brother up. We got to choose three movies in the Blockbuster next to our house – one for the whole family, one for my mom and dad to watch together and the other for my brother and me. Family choice didn’t matter because my brother and I always fell asleep on the couch. My dad is a lawyer so he would always choose something like this The Pelican letter or some kind of legal movie. My brother and I would always walk down the aisles to make sure we had all the information before we could inevitably settle on just one movie like Rock-A-Doodle, a film about an Elvis-based rooster that plays like a child’s fever dream. It was just a ritual, knowing that as a family we would go to Blockbuster, make some decisions, and go into the weekend like heroes — and get some Milk Duds.” — Vanessa Ramos, creator, writer, executive producer and showrunner
“We had one in my hometown of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, which is in this cluster of small towns in Northeast Jersey. Because my city had the blockbuster, we would go there every Friday night and just roam the aisles. I remember arguing with my brother about which movie we would rent, or arguing with my parents about how many movies to rent or how much candy I could get. It was such an integral part of my childhood, mid-teens and teenage years and I feel like I just took it for granted now. And that’s also an important part of the show, because it’s this place where people can go and gather and find community. I think we’ve missed that now.” – Star Melissa Fumero
“Growing up in New York, I remember renting video games and movies, particularly the Washington Heights blockbusters. I just remember walking in there on a hot day and felt the air conditioner blast hit your face as you walked through the doors. Then you see all the cups of popcorn in the checkout aisles along with all the quarter candy machines, gum and games. I loved it… And I love the show. It has a lot of heart and is hysterical at the same time.” – Star Tyler Alvarez
“I was hired at Blockbuster in Ottawa, Canada literally two weeks before closing. They didn’t know it was closing so they were still hiring people and I came in to get my shirt and they were like, ‘Yeah, sorry. You don’t have a job anymore.’ heartbreaking. I just remember Blockbuster being the place to go every Friday night right after school. That was the thing. I would fly there, get my candy, my two movies and go home. And see if the guy I had a crush on was over there in the next aisle. I loved it. It’s such a powerful piece of nostalgia for everyone and [our culture] is having a nostalgic moment right now, so why not do a show about blockbusters?” – Star Stephanie Izsak
“It was such an integral part of childhood to go once a week. We went to the video store, chose the videos and watched them at home with the family. My parents would let me know which ones I haven’t been allowed to see, and you would see other people you know there doing the same. You would pick something and think you would get the last one available, until you would open it and realize they were just empty boxes. When I heard about the show I thought it was hilarious and then I heard it was for Netflix – amazing. The craziest moment was entering the set [in Vancouver] for the first time. I knew conceptually it was going to be a riot and a setback, but when I got there I really had a moment of feeling like I’d gone back to my sixth grade life.” – Director Katie Locke O’Brien
“I loved going to Blockbuster as a kid. It was always such a warm, nostalgic feeling. But now I love getting the chance to do a TV show about a blockbuster. (laughs.) If I could choose one or the other, I’d choose the show rather than being able to go back to another store, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss them.” – Executive Producer David Caspe