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Once upon a time in cities across the U.S., one of the most popular destinations on a Friday or Saturday night, aside from the multiplex, was the local Blockbuster.
Though it has long since been replaced by streaming, the rental chain, which went belly up more than a decade ago, once held prime spots on the weekend social calendars of families, couples, teens, gamers and solo movie-lovers as the place to peruse the shelves and pick out a VHS or DVD to take home — temporarily.
“I would spend all of Friday night in a Blockbuster because I could never decide what movie to get,” Randall Park recalled to The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday before heading into the world premiere of his new Netflix series Blockbuster at Tudum Theater in Hollywood. “I was one of those guys who would be there for hours and hours to the point where employees would ask me, ‘Are you sure you don’t need help?’ And eventually, I would choose the same handful of movies that I had rented time and time again, some that I’d seen a hundred times.”
Park wasn’t alone on a stroll down memory lane last night. Nearly every member of the cast and creative team behind Blockbuster came quick with a nostalgia-heavy anecdote about how much time they used to spend scouring the aisles for rentals (or candy). In the series, Park stars opposite Melissa Fumero, Olga Merediz, Tyler Alvarez, Madeleine Arthur and JB Smoove in a story centered on the last remaining location as the hardworking manager fights to keep the store open amid competition and complicated feelings.
Blockbuster debuts on Netflix on Nov. 3, and below are the rest of those remembrances.
“My dad would come home early from work and pick up me, my mom and my brother. We’d get to pick out three movies at the Blockbuster by our house — one was for the whole family, one for my mom and dad to watch together and the other for my brother and I. The family choice didn’t matter because my brother and I would always fall asleep on the couch. My dad’s a lawyer so he would always pick something like The Pelican Brief or some sort of legal movie. My brother and I always walked through all of the aisles to make sure we had all the information before inevitably only being able to agree on a movie like Rock-A-Doodle, a movie about an Elvis-based rooster that plays like a child’s fever dream. It was just a ritual of knowing that, as a family, we were going to go to Blockbuster, make some choices and head into the weekend feeling like heroes — and getting some Milk Duds.” — Vanessa Ramos, creator, writer, executive producer and showrunner
“We had one in my hometown, Lyndhurst, New Jersey, which is in that northeast Jersey cluster of small towns. Because my town had the Blockbuster, we went every Friday night and just roamed the aisles. I remember fighting with my brother about which movie we were going to rent or fighting with my parents about how many movies I could rent or how much candy I could get. It was such a staple of childhood, tween and teen years and I feel like now, I just took it for granted. And that’s an important piece of the show, too, because it’s this place where people can go and gather and find community. I think we’ve missed that now.” — star Melissa Fumero
“I grew up in New York and I remember renting video games and movies, specifically going into the Blockbuster in Washington Heights. I just remember walking in there on a hot day and feeling the blast of air conditioning hitting your face as you walk through the doors. Then you see all the tubs 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 it’s hysterical at the same time.” — star Tyler Alvarez
“I was hired at Blockbuster in Ottawa, Canada, literally two weeks before it closed. They didn’t know it was going to close and so they were still hiring people and I came in to pick up my shirt and they said, ‘Yeah, sorry. You don’t have a job anymore.’ Heartbreaking. I just remember that every Friday night right after school, Blockbuster was the place to go. That was the thing. I would hightail it there, get my candy, my two movies and go home. And see if the guy I had a crush on was hanging on the next aisle over. I loved it. It’s such a strong piece of nostalgia for everybody and [our culture] is having a nostalgic moment right now, so why not make a show about Blockbuster?” — star Stephanie Izsak
“It was such an integral part of childhood to go once a week. We’d go to the video store, pick out the videos and watch them at home with family. My parents would let me know which ones I wasn’t allowed to see yet and you’d see other people you knew there, doing the same thing. You’d pick something and think you were getting the last one available until you’d open it and discover they were just all empty boxes. So, when I heard of the show, I thought it was hilarious and then I heard it was for Netflix — amazing. The craziest moment was stepping onto the set [in Vancouver] for the first time. I knew conceptually that it would be a riot and a throwback, but once I got there, I really had a moment of feeling like I was back in 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 make a television show about a Blockbuster. (Laughs.) If I could choose one or the other, I would choose the show rather than being able to go to another store again but that’s not to say that I don’t miss it.” — executive producer David Caspe
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