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Netflix is browsing memory lane with an ironic subject for nostalgia: renting movies.
Blockbuster, a workplace comedy launching Nov. 3, stars Randall Park as Timmy, the frazzled manager of the last remaining Blockbuster Video store. While set in present day, the series that also stars Melissa Fumero and JB Smoove is a reminder of the rental company’s heyday pre-streaming.
Launched in Dallas in 1985, Blockbuster Video quickly grew to hundreds of stores and in 1994 was acquired by Viacom for $8.4 billion. At its peak in the early 2000s, the rental giant operated more than 9,000 stores worldwide — and even had the chance to purchase a fledging company called Netflix for $50 million. Blockbuster passed, and before long, it was struggling to keep up with its new DVDs-by-mail rival. By 2014, all corporate-owned stores had shut down; today, only one franchised location remains in Bend, Oregon, as seen in the 2020 documentary The Last Blockbuster.
Back in the day, Blockbuster commercials included the likes of Cindy Crawford and Richard Lewis, who recalls to THR that he enjoyed shooting his string of ads in the late 1990s for the “Go Home Happy” campaign, which he remembers having a successful run before he was replaced by a computer-generated dancing baby à la Ally McBeal’s.
“I think having the dancing baby instead of Richard Lewis knocked Blockbuster off its pedestal,” he jokes. “I could have been their savior.” Blockbuster series creator Vanessa Ramos tells THR that the show’s team took the details seriously, as Dish Network, which now owns the Blockbuster rights, inspected the re-created store to ensure authenticity. The scrutiny paid off: Ramos says the show’s guest stars would marvel that strolling the set’s aisles brought back cozy feelings of making it a Blockbuster night.
As for what Ramos misses most about the bygone era? The raised stakes. “You picked out a movie, and that’s what you were stuck with for the weekend, whether you liked it or not.”
This story first appeared in the Nov. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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