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A new Blockbuster store? California woman uses little free library concept for movies

SUN VALLEY, CA-JANUARY 17,2024:Alyssa Kollgaard, 37, is photographed next to a kiosk, decked out to look like a "Blockbuster" in front of her home in Sun Valley. She said that the kiosk can hold about 75 DVDs and people can rent them for free. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Alyssa Kollgaard, 37, stands in front of her Little Free Blockbuster movie lending library at her home in Sun Valley. The kiosk can hold about 75 DVDs and people can "rent" them for free. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

It's time to hit rewind.

Remember when movies were literally at your fingertips, before you had to pay for Netflix and YouTube TV?

Alyssa Kollgaard has re-created that experience outside her Sun Valley home, where she has built and stocked a new Blockbuster "store."

A women walks while holding balloons.
Kollgaard walks with balloons to be placed next to the kiosk in front of her home. She said the kiosk can hold about 75 DVDs and people can rent them for free. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

With a banner declaring its grand opening, the blue-and-yellow structure, created in the vein of a Little Free Library, is part of a national Free Blockbuster movement in which neighbors can take — or leave — VHS tapes or DVDs.

The Free Blockbusters exist from El Paso to Canada, with aughts-sick movie lovers building them out of bookshelves or newspaper stands.

"We’re seeing a return to physical media," says Kollgaard, who works in the entertainment industry. "There’s a nostalgia around the experience of going to a store and perusing as well as actually collecting so you’re not at the whim of the streaming platforms to actually watch films."

How long does it take for nostalgia to set in?

Read more: How do you make 'Blockbuster' for the streamer that helped kill it? 'Call out Netflix'

Apparently about a decade.

The last Blockbuster store in Los Angeles closed in 2013, reported at the time by Buzzfeed News.

A kiosk is decked out to look like a Blockbuster.
Kollgaard's kiosk is decked out to look like a Blockbuster. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The closure came after the massive home video chain filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Thousands of locations were shuttered nationwide.

Today, only one Blockbuster store remains — in Bend, Ore.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Streaming

Sure, the selection at Kollgaard's Blockbuster is a little thinner than it was at your neighborhood store. She currently has about 75 films inside a two-tiered display case, including movies such as "Failure to Launch" and "Bridesmaids." Each DVD has a sticker on the front that reads "Return to Little Free Blockbuster" along with Kollgaard's address.

Some of the DVDs inside the kiosk.
Some of the DVDs inside the kiosk. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Kollgaard is also offering a limited selection of books — many of which are often on banned lists — such as Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World."

Like at the Blockbusters of yore, Kollgaard also has stocked the box with candy, including Red Vines and Sour Patch Kids, as well as popcorn you can enjoy with your take-home movie.

There's a guest book that people can sign, and Kollgaard even plans to make membership cards for those interested.

Recently someone "rented" a movie and returned it to the lending library later. But Kollgaard expects some DVDs won't be returned — and that's OK, she says, although she does ask for returns.

Unlike at Blockbuster, there are no charges, or fines, but there is a "late fee" QR code through which Kollgaard is accepting tips for running the enterprise.

Movie donations also are accepted, and Kollgaard says a set of screeners of shows nominated for the 2023 Emmys was recently dropped off.

Kollgaard, who has stocked a free food pantry outside her home for two years, says she hopes the movie sharing will take off in her neighborhood and beyond. Already, people have dropped in from as far away as Marina del Rey.

A woman checks out DVDs for rent for free.
Maggie Wilson checks out DVDs for rent for free at Kollgaard's home. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

"The reception has been really positive on Reddit, TikTok and in my local community," she said. "It’s definitely intended to be permanent. It’s fully installed on my fence."

The nostalgia surrounding the creation of Kollgaard's mini-Blockbuster, first reported by LAist, is perhaps what The Times' "obituary" to the mega-chain prophesied in 2013.

"Someday, today’s teenagers will tell their grandchildren magical tales of visiting the store with the big blue and yellow sign, of how it was crammed with videotapes (later DVDs)," a Times Opinion piece read. "Thanks for the memories," Blockbuster.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.