"Free Blockbuster" is like a chain of "little free libraries", except it circulates that noble medium of the home-video era: The VHS tape. You can drop one off or take one.
The movement was started in 2018 by Brian Morrison, who noticed all the abandoned newspaper boxes around and wondered if they could be put to a new use. According to this paywalled Wall Street Journal piece, there are now 69 Free Blockbuster boxes scattered around the US, Canada and Australia.
If you want to join the movement, you can find a box using the map at FreeBlockbuster.org; at the site you can also buy stickers or stencils to adorn a box of your own ("found a franchise," as they say on the site, and add it to the map), or even buy a full-on painted, premade box for $199.
Judging by the map, the big hotspots for boxes are Portland, LA, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Detroit and Cincinnati. Not much action out here in NYC where I live; maybe I'll have to set one up!
Free Blockbuster was quickly embraced by the VHS-adoring community on social media. In March of 2019, Se7ven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker tweeted in support of the project and dropped off a couple of tapes of his own in a Los Angeles box. Morrison still considers March 28, the day of the tweet, to be a Free Blockbuster holiday. "That was a series of things that went from being like, an insane thing that a crazy person was doing on his own to being a collective," Morrison says.
Along with fostering a community of physical media fans, Morrison hopes that Free Blockbuster can reinvigorate the sense of discovery that has been lost in the algorithmic streaming era. Each photo of a Free Blockbuster box highlights the vast range of media it inspires: one box in Philadelphia featured the entire series of Entourage; one in Los Feliz had three copies of Babe on VHS; another in Virginia put 8 Mile, Burn After Reading, and Zombieland together. Many locations also include bags of popcorn or movie theater candy to pair with your selection.
"I've seen surreal… really weird stuff in these things," Morrison says. "My favorite is when people drop off movies they taped off a TV that still have the commercials in there. That makes me so happy."
(Photo of the Free Blockbuster box via their Instagram feed)