With only one remaining Blockbuster store left in the world, wandering carpeted aisles picking out the perfect movie and snack is an activity of the past for most.

But one Langley, B.C., teen hopes to bring back part of the experience.

Grade 12 student Matthew Reed started a “Free Blockbuster” in his neighborhood of Walnut Grove, in the Township of Langley about 45 kilometres east of Vancouver, as part of a school project. 

“It’s sort of like going to an actual Blockbuster store but it’s on the curbside and it doesn’t cost anything,” said Reed. 

WATCH | Reed shows off his Free Blockbuster box: 

B.C. teen opens free Blockbuster video library

Ever miss going to pick out VCR tapes and DVDs at your local Blockbuster store? Grade 12 student Matthew Reed started a “Free Blockbuster” in his neighbourhood of Walnut Grove, in the Township of Langley, as part of a school project.

A metal cabinet spray-painted blue and decorated with decals, Free Blockbuster is stocked with over a hundred DVDs and VHS tapes, microwavable popcorn, and free membership cards.

Reed’s project is part of the FreeBlockbuster.org movement, which started in the U.S. and has since spread to Canada, with two branches in Alberta and now one in B.C.

In an era where many feel like they have to pay for multiple subscription services to watch a handful of movies, the Free Blockbuster movement aims to provide free entertainment.

The films from Reed’s Free Blockbuster can be borrowed without a fee, and there are no due dates. The concept is similar to the Little Free Libraries, where people may take or leave as many books as they like.

The box is filled with a multi-genre collection of movies, which Reed estimates includes over 30 DVDs and over 100 VHS tapes.

He says the community has responded well.

“They say they love it, a lot of them say this is unbelievable, this is mind-blowing.” 

He also created membership cards with his address “just for fun,” free for visitors to take.

Brand nostalgia

Blockbuster, the American home video and video game rental service, closed all but one store — located in Bend, Ore. — over a decade ago amid the proliferation of streaming services like Netflix. 

But in the years since, a number of people nostalgic for the brand have made attempts to revive it in their own ways.

In St. John’s, Nfld., Corey Lynch built a replica of one of the stores in his basement, and last year Netflix released a sitcom based on a group of people trying to keep their Blockbuster branch alive.

Four side-by-side stacks of various movies of different genres.
A snapshot of Reed’s Free Blockbuster movie collection. Anyone can borrow the DVDs and VHS tapes without a fee or due date. (Submitted by Michelle Watson)

Many of those involved in the projects say they are nostalgic for a time when you could browse through genres from different eras, instead of relying on an algorithm and multiple services to try and find something to watch.

The Free Blockbuster movement website says its mission “is to combat the myth of scarcity by providing free entertainment to as many people as possible.”

An outdoor blue cabinet is open, displaying DVDs, VHS tapes, and a stack of Blockbuster membership cards.
The Free Blockbuster cabinet also contains free membership cards for anyone to take. (Submitted by Michelle Watson)

Reed says he was inspired by his own memories of visiting his local Blockbuster as a kid before it closed down. 

“I saw this little boy outside and he had a bunch of Thomas the Tank Engine videos. I told him, take as many as you like,” said Reed, adding he hopes the success of his project will inspire more across Metro Vancouver.

“Just remember,” he says, echoing the chain’s famous motto, “be kind and rewind.”

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