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Community lending dispenser is latest trend in the Little Free Library movement

"We've got DVD, VHS — there's a bunch of them in there, and it's fun," said Cyrus Zamani, a small business owner and resident of Oregon City.PMG PHOTO: ETHAN M. ROGERS - Cyrus Zamani, a small business owner and resident of Oregon City, stands next to his Free Blockbuster.

When your job entails putting up stages, lights, sound systems and tents for weddings and concerts, you might be tempted to take a break rather than take time to share a love of movies with their neighbors.

But it's all fun for Zamani, who owns an event-production business called The Party Factory.

"We call it the Free Blockbuster," said Zamani. "It's a community lending library — it's full of videos, take-one-leave-one-type situation. There's one a block and a half over for books."

Founded in 1985, Blockbuster had over 5,000 stores nationwide renting movies before it declared bankruptcy in 2010; it has only one store left in Bend, Oregon.PMG PHOTO: ETHAN M. ROGERS - Free Blockbuster stands often use the logos from a movie-rental company that went bankrupt in 2010.

With hundreds of locations in Oregon, Little Free Libraires have been a staple of Portland-area neighborhoods for years, but movie libraires have yet to catch on to the same scale here in the Pacific Northwest, with only seven Free Blockbusters in the state currently. Blockbuster's bright blue-and-yellow color scheme and logo beamed forth from the lending library to match Zamani's smile.

"We put the logo on it and painted it the appropriate colors," he said.

Zamani got the idea for the movie-lending library from a former Blockbuster employee turned pop-culture savior who stated the first Free Blockbuster in 2019 by converting an abandoned LA Times newspaper dispenser into the first Free Blockbuster.

Much like the Little Free Library movement, the Free Blockbuster website has a map of all the franchise locations. They also sell supplies for the aspiring Free Blockbuster proprietor, though purchases aren't necessary to have a free-library franchise location. The website offers free downloads of printable labels you can affix to your own refurbished free-movie dispenser.

"We see movies slowly work through. Every week or so I come out and try to make sure there's no junk movies in there and put good movies in if we have some. I think right now there's some Disney movies," said Zamani, opening the door to this miniature Blockbuster, reaching inside and withdrawing DVDs and VHS tapes.

"There's kind of an assortment in here, there's some horror flicks, I think, what do we have in here?" Zamani asked, holding out a copy of "MacBeth" from 2010. Patrick Stewart's bald head evoked Generation X nostalgia for Captain Jean Luc Picard staring up from the DVD cover, although Stewart in his MacBeth role was older on the DVD than he was as the dashing, middle-aged Star Trek captain.

"It's just a bunch of old movies," Zamani said. "Movies from people's basements as they clean out their stuff, or if you've got one that you're tired of, bring it out and swap it for something else."

Neighbors seem to like it, according to Zamani. The free library is situated next to a block of mailboxes, making it convenient. "If you're out on a walk, take a look and see if there's something you like," he said.

"I was thinking about doing toy cars next. Hot Wheels. Maybe start a whole strip mall — do a series of them," Zamani said. "My neighbor was talking about opening a Hollywood Video to compete with me. We'll see what happens."

Free Blockbuster

Where: 19350 Hazel Grove Drive, Oregon City.


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