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‘Free Blockbuster’ Box Debuts at Heroic Goods & Games This Weekend

Take a movie. Leave a movie. A growing trend comes to south Minneapolis.

A Free Blockbuster box outside Heroic Goods & Games in south Minneapolis
Courtesy of Heroic Goods & Games

Blockbuster is back. And now it’s littler and free.

This Saturday morning, Heroic Goods & Games on Minnehaha Avenue in south Minneapolis will “unveil” (their knowingly hyperbolic word) a “Free Blockbuster,” the third such franchise to sprout up in Minnesota this year.

The idea here, as you’ve maybe caught on, is similar to the one behind the Free Little Library. There’s a box. You drop off movies you don’t want anymore in the box. You snag other people’s unwanted movies to watch, and drop ’em off when you’re done. 

Paul Zenisek, Heroic’s owner, learned of the concept when some friends opened a Free Blockbuster in St. Louis Park earlier this year, the first in the state. A second started in Burnsville just this week. As the old journalistic adage says: Three’s a trend.

Free Blockbuster kicked off three years ago in Los Angeles, when Brian Morrison noticed all the unused newspaper boxes in town. He stashed a pal’s excess videos in a box in 2019 and the concept was born. The goal? To “combat the myth of scarcity” and demonstrate that physical media still had value to people.

Boxes have gone up nationwide since then. Some folks design their own; others (like Heroic) order a pre-made box from Morrison’s org.

While Heroic is, as its name lets on, a retail store dedicated primarily to games (board games, card games, and used video games), its owner has seen firsthand that even in the streaming age, there’s still a demand for the “tactile” experience for discs and videocassettes. “We sell used movies in the store, and we have people stopping in from the neighborhood regularly for them,“ Zenisek says.

Not that the irony of a defunct corporate behemoth being transformed into a symbol of neighborhood resource pooling is lost on him. “I’m surprised that Blockbuster is getting the nostalgia push, a giant company that put lots of small companies out of business,” he says, laughing.

Heroic plans to stock the initially with as many formats as possible: DVD and VHS, of course, but also Laserdisc (“they don’t fit in the box though”) and even something from the store owner’s private stash of Super 8 films.

Right now, the only concern is that the Free Blockbuster will be too popular, as Saturday morning’s inaugural “event,” posted as kind of a goof, gathers increasing attention online. “People are saying ‘I’m bringing 30 movies to drop off’ and the box only holds 20, so I’d better get some storage ready,” Zenisek says.