The last Blockbuster sneaks in an ad at halftime — and wins the Super Bowl

A round, yellow-and-blue Blockbuster Video store sign.
Blockbuster aired a popular commercial during the 2023 Super Bowl.
(Eric J. Shelton / Associated Press)

The phone at the last Blockbuster store in the world has been ringing off the hook since Super Bowl Sunday.

When The Times reached out Thursday morning to the small business in Bend, Ore., an out-of-breath employee picked up the phone after the call went to the answering machine and apologized for the wait. To say the only surviving Blockbuster has been busier than usual is an understatement.

According to the general manager of the store, Sandi Harding, the Bend Blockbuster has seen a massive increase in foot traffic and sales since debuting a Super Bowl ad on Instagram and YouTube during Rihanna’s halftime show. Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, the clever promo features three key players: a cockroach named Steve who is a regular customer at the last Blockbuster, an employee who welcomes Steve to the store and a narrator who promises that “when the world ends, and the internet streams no more, [the Bend Blockbuster will] still be here.”


A man parked his motorcycle on the sidewalk Saturday morning, ruining the aesthetic of the last remaining Blockbuster in the continental United States.

July 16, 2018

The store’s “first commercial in a really, really long time” (per the Bend Blockbuster Instagram page) was a hit, generating heaps of praise on social media and inspiring nostalgic Blockbuster fans to visit the relic in real life.

“This is [usually] the slowest time of year for us in the store, so we’ve definitely seen an uptick in the store every day,” Harding told The Times on Thursday.

“Our sales are ... probably up about 30% in the store. But the biggest improvement we’ve seen is online. ... We’re used to getting five to 10 orders a day during this time of year, and we’re looking at more like 40 to 50 orders a day. ... We survive on the additional revenue we were getting from our online sales to help support the store, so this is huge for us. And it’s amazing support.”

Asked how the Bend Blockbuster marketing team came up with the concept for the Super Bowl ad, Harding laughed and said, “You mean myself?”

“We don’t have a marketing team,” she added.

“This was a very low-budget [project] ... This is a quiet time of the year, so it was the perfect opportunity for us to try to do something, and we actually pulled it off in about three weeks. So it was not something that we had planned for a long time.”


Despite its modest origins, the Blockbuster Super Bowl spot was so successful that Harding’s parents have temporarily come out of retirement to help her process all the extra orders. In addition to the financial boost, the store has also received a wave of verbal support — especially from those with fond memories of family trips to Blockbuster before the streaming revolution nearly rendered video and DVD rentals obsolete.

“We’re seeing a ton of phone calls ... congratulating us, wishing us well, asking what they can do to help, telling us to hang on as long as we can,” Harding said.

This isn’t the first time the Bend Blockbuster’s popularity has skyrocketed in the wake of a water-cooler pop culture moment. According to Harding, the post-Super Bowl rush hasn’t been quite as extreme as the attention the store received after Netflix (of all studios) released a documentary about the last Blockbuster in 2020 — “but it’s definitely very similar.”

“I actually spoke to someone this morning on the phone ... and she told me how ... her and her children would come in and pick out movies and how important it was to her and her family to spend time together and how much Blockbuster meant to them as her kids were growing up,” Harding said. “She wanted us to stick around as long as we could.”