Retro movie lovers are creating their own DIY “Free Blockbuster” kiosks so people can borrow or leave DVD and VHS movies for free, and a smattering of these lending libraries are popping up around the Bay Area.

The one-time ubiquitous video store chain Blockbuster Video declared bankruptcy in 2010, and at this point, there’s only one Blockbuster location left in the entire country (it’s in Bend, Oregon). The once-prominent Blockbuster near Church and Market streets closed in 2011, though as a funny footnote, the space that’s become home to the popular restaurant Nopa almost became a Blockbuster Video in the early 2000s.

But the Chronicle has an article today about some do-it-yourself pranksters who have started a wave of informal “Free Blockbuster” lending libraries, and they report that some of these makeshift little kiosks are turning up here in the Bay Area. They work on the premise of “Take a movie, leave a movie,” like Little Free Libraries, with small stocks of free DVDs and VHS tapes inside their kiosks.

Though honestly, who still has a DVD player or a VHS machine these days?

Image: Free Blockbuster

The Chronicle picks this up as a "trend piece," presumably because the New York Times wrote it up last week. But in looking at the Free Blockbuster national map, this “trend” is not exactly sweeping the Bay Area. While there are apparently 200 of these across the country, there are only five in Northern California (one each in Oakland, San Jose, Rohnert Park, Davis, and Modesto).

That said, the Oakland Free Blockbuster kiosk (seen above) did open in 2019, which was the year this LA-based project started. That one is at 420 40th Street outside 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in the Mosswood District, and the Free Blockbuster website has instructions on how to set up your own “franchise,” including stencil designs and such with which you can repurpose an abandoned newspaper box.

But Instagram comments indicate some who've done so have had a negative experience. The post above has drawn comments like “I got wiped out like 2 months after opening. I’m just saddened by how nobody seems to bring anything back god forbid they add to the box,” and “Someone wiped me out and left a bunch of R-Rated DVDs and VHS tapes. People can be jerks.”

And amusingly, the Chronicle adds that Free Blockbuster “has received a cease-and-desist letter from Blockbuster LLC. In response, they have submitted a licensing request, which is still pending.”

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Image: freeblockbuster via Instagram