Tired of Streaming? Free Blockbuster Libraries Offer an Alternative.

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When it comes to art, “nothing beats holding it in your hand,” Ms. DuVernay said.

“That tactile intimacy of touch is something that sounds kind of flighty and unimportant, but touch is a sense,” she said. “It is a part of the experience of consuming and experiencing art.”

Ms. DuVernay lamented the loss of the director’s cuts and commentary that often came with DVDs but are now largely absent from films on streaming services. “That’s how I actually learned to make content,” she said. “I picked up a camera when I was 32, I listened to directors talk about their films to the picture.”

As Free Blockbusters have opened across the country, the last Blockbuster in Bend, Ore., continues to rent out films on DVD and Blu-ray. But Sandi Harding, who has managed the store for the past two decades, doesn’t see them in competition: The more people who engage with the Blockbuster brand and physical media the better, she said.

The store, which became the last in the world after franchises in Alaska and Australia closed their doors, now largely draws summer tourists, in addition to some regular customers, said Ms. Harding, noting that about 80 percent of the store’s income now comes from merchandise, and the remainder from film rentals. But it became increasingly challenging to scope out new releases on DVD and Blu-ray online, or at local department stores, she said.

“I don’t think it’ll ever go back to where it was before. But I think it’s kind of like vinyl records,” which have resurged, she said.

Alfonso Castillo, who co-founded a Free Blockbuster on Long Island with his son, said the lending library sees regular turnover with people both taking and dropping off movies, including older people. “My sense is that for them, it’s less of this cool novelty sort of ironic thing and more like, finally, there’s a place to get DVDs again,” he said.



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