Is the VHS Tape Renaissance Upon Us?

Rewind to the '80s with a "Free Blockbuster" in a city near you

A stack of retro VHS tapes including Wayne's World, Ladybugs, Twins, Son in Law and Home Alone
You pull up to the Free Blockbuster and this is your selection: which one are you picking?
Getty Images

Last year, vinyl records outsold CDs for the first time since the ’80s, proving that audiophiles still have an affinity for the retro format. But can the same be said for movie fans? According to a new piece by the Wall Street Journal, it’s possible; “Free Blockbuster” stands are reportedly cropping up across the country to help fans swap old VHS tapes.

With an overwhelming number of streaming services at our fingertips these days, it sort of makes sense why one would be attracted to the nostalgia of a VHS tape — particularly for those of us who happened to grow up during their heyday in the ’80s or ’90s. That’s what inspired 37-year-old Brian Morrison to launch the Free Blockbuster movement in 2019. The concept is a relatively simple one: the group turns former newspaper boxes into little free libraries of VHS tapes where people can deposit their own for others to enjoy and pick up those donated by others.

According to the story, there are now 69 Free Blockbuster boxes located throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. But not everyone is thrilled about the idea, apparently. The outlet notes that “Mr. Morrison said he received a request from Blockbuster LLC, which is owned by Dish Network Corp., last year that he change the name of his organization. He said he asked if the company would consider licensing out the name but hasn’t heard back.”

A Dish spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that their company “loves bringing Blockbuster back to fans through partnerships, social media engagement and promotions. At this time, this is not a partnership we have chosen to pursue.”

Still, whatever it winds up being called in the long run, it seems as though there’s a diehard group of VHS aficionados clinging to the format. Fingers crossed their VCRs don’t give out any time soon, though; the last VCR maker stopped production back in 2016.

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