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'Be Kind, Rewind!' A piece of nostalgia lands in Eastern Market with Michigan's first Free Blockbuster Box

Posted at 9:57 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 16:24:27-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — If you remember Saturday night trips to your local Blockbuster to grab a few movies and snacks, you're probably of a certain age.

But now, gone are the days when we could spend the evening on the hunt for the perfect film inside a brick-and-mortar building. Streaming has taken over, but one Detroiter has found a way to bring back those memories, this time with a twist.

Local filmmaker Jim Toscano is the franchise owner of Michigan's first Free Blockbuster Box. It's located in Eastern Market and is one of only about 16 in the country.

"I really didn't actually realize I missed it until recently," Toscano said about the Blockbuster era. "When I heard about this box, I'm like yea, maybe it might be cool to have a place where people can go and pick up tangible media basically."

There's now just one Blockbuster store left in the entire world. The entertainment empire crumbled after filing for bankruptcy back in 2010.

But now there's a new twist on an old tradition.

The Blockbuster Box encourages people to "take a movie" and "leave a movie," and it's already gaining popularity after launching early in March.

The concept is pretty simple – you can bring movies to the box for others to enjoy, or grab one for yourself. And there are no late fees.

Even people from out of the state have contacted Toscano to say they plan to ship some DVDs to the location to be included in the box.

And Toscano, whose production studio is located in Eastern Market, said he found out about the Blockbuster Box from a filmmaker friend in Philadelphia. Apparently, a documentary his company produced on the city was left inside one of the Philly Blockbuster Boxes, which piqued Toscano's interest in the boxes and led him to reach out to the creator of the Free Blockbuster Box. The California man who started it all is a former Blockbuster employee and VHS tape collector. He launched the idea for the boxes in 2018.

Toscano said launching the box in Detroit was fairly easy, he just had to find an old newspaper box, clean it up, then throw some blue paint on it along with some stenciling. He added some movies to the box, now the concept has taken off in roughly a week.

The success of the first box, which carries DVDs, VHS and even LaserDiscs, has inspired Toscano to place a box in another area of Detroit in the near future.

And watching metro Detroiters travel to the box and negotiate which movie they should watch, brings back memories for Toscano and his team at Free Age production studio.

"The fun thing of going to a video store was, sometimes you didn't know what you wanted until you saw it," he said.

He added that this also gives local indie filmmakers a chance to get noticed, as some have dropped off their own films to the box. And when you visit the box, you'll see all types of genres ranging from funny to a few rare finds, he said.

"Let's try and put some stuff that we think is either funny, or rare, or just a weird B or C level movie," Toscano said. "Even like local filmmakers... if they have work they should put it in there. And then we'll Instagram about it and let people know it's in there."

Toscano says metro Detroiters should bring their movies and drop them off at the box, but also pick up a good movie while they're there. He's also encouraging more people to launch Free Blockbuster Boxes so that local film fanatics can experience this piece of nostalgia in their home cities.

"If anyone wants to make one, just go do it – it's fun," he said.

Detroit's only Free Blockbuster Box is located on Riopelle Street in Detroit's Eastern Market. For more info on how to start your own box, visit freeblockbuster.org.