Netflix is browsing down memory lane with an ironic topic for nostalgia: renting movies.
Blockbuster, a workplace comedy opening Nov. 3, stars Randall Park as Timmy, the frazzled manager of the last remaining Blockbuster video store. While set in the present day, the series starring Melissa Fumero and JB Smoove is reminiscent of the pre-streaming of The Rental Company.
Launched in Dallas in 1985, Blockbuster Video quickly grew to hundreds of stores and was acquired by Viacom in 1994 for $8.4 billion. At its peak in the early 2000s, the rental giant operated more than 9,000 stores worldwide — and even had an opportunity to buy a fledgling company, Netflix, for $50 million. Blockbuster passed, and before long, it was struggling to keep up with its new DVDs-by-mail competitor. By 2014, all corporate-owned stores had closed; Today, only one franchised location remains in Bend, Oregon, as seen in a 2020 documentary. The Last Blockbuster.
Back in the day, Blockbuster commercials featured Cindy Crawford and Richard Lewis, she recalls. THR She enjoyed filming a string of commercials in the late 1990s for the “Go Home Happy” campaign, which she recalls had a successful run before being replaced by a computer-generated dancing baby à la Allie McBeal.
“I think having a dancing baby instead of Richard Lewis knocked Blockbuster off its pedestal,” he jokes. “I could have been their savior.” Blockbuster says series creator Vanessa Ramos THR The show’s team took the details seriously, as Dish Network, which now owns Blockbuster rights, inspected the re-created store to ensure authenticity. The vetting paid off: Ramos says the show’s guest stars strolling the set’s aisles brought back the cozy feelings that make it a blockbuster night.
What does Ramos miss about the previous era? Raised stake. “You pick a movie and you’re stuck with it for the weekend whether you like it or not.”
This story first appeared in the Nov. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.