It's true. Blockbuster Video has come back to Detroit in the form of a free rental box. Filmmaker Jon Toscano has opened what is being called Michigan's first Free Blockbuster Box, joining one of only about 16 of its type in the United States. The idea stems from Brian Morrison establishing the first Free Blockbuster Box in Los Angeles, California, inspiring others to do the same elsewhere in the country.
"I found an old newspaper box in a dilapidated shopping center," Toscano told The Detroit News, explaining how he created the box. "It actually had a can of beer in the inside when I went to check it out. I resurrected it and turned it into the Blockbuster Box. The box actually needed a lot of work. We had to sand down the old stickers, paint, add new Plexiglas, along with some stenciling."
The concept of the Free Blockbuster Box works similarly to mini-libraries that have become fairly common. Rather than "take a book, leave a book," it's "take a movie, leave a movie." It's meant to mimic the classic feeling of going to a video store and browsing the available titles to choose from, but without the pesky late fees or membership card requirements. Offering VHS tapes, DVDs, and laserdiscs, everyone is free to take what they wish or donate what they can.
"People absolutely love the movie box," Toscano also said, as the Blockbuster logo alone brings back nostalgic memories of browsing the aisles back in the past. "People actually hang around the box and discuss movies with each other. It's like the old video store days."
Toscano also says this is a great avenue for filmmaker to get their work out their by donating copies of their movies to the Blockbuster Box. A filmmaker himself, Toscano explains: "It would be cool to see B and C movies inside the box. Also, independent films would be great to see inside. This box can be a new stream for independent filmmakers to get the support that they need to market their movie."
If you're looking for the classic brick-and-mortar experience, there's literally only one place you can go. Blockbuster is down to one final video store that remains open, located in the town of Bend, Oregon. Last year, the location was rented out as an Airbnb rental for a 90s-themed sleepover on three separate nights. The location also serves as a popular tourist attraction from visitors all over, and the locals frequently support the business to help keep its doors open.
Toscano's Free Blockbuster Box is located on Riopelle St. in Detroit's Eastern Market. Because this is definitely something we need to see a lot more of, hopefully Toscano's story will help inspire others to build Blockbuster Boxes in their own local areas as well. Nothing can ever replace the original experience of picking out some movies to watch on a Friday night in the 90s, but using the brand for free movie exchanges is a great way to keep Blockbuster alive. This information comes to us from The Detroit News.