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North Pole branch of Blockbuster to close

It’s not the final video rental store to shut its doors.

But when the North Pole branch of Blockbuster said it would stop renting DVDs it was a sad day for many in the central Alaskan town – and the end of one of the last relics of analogue-era entertainment.

The rental store branch announced on social media it would be shutting last week, and began a liquidation sale of its stock that will continue into April.

“Kelli and her crew have done a phenomenal job and will be greatly missed,” Blockbuster Alaska wrote on Facebook. “Thank you SO VERY much North Pole for your years of support.”

Local media reported that about 40 people gathered at the store on the first day of its sale last week – hoping both to pick up a bargain and show their gratitude to a local institution.

On Facebook, Rachel Stark wrote that her family had always used the Blockbuster and would “continue to do so until the end”.

“We and our kids enjoy the social experience as in going outdoors to get something,” she said.

“I feel like I am losing my childhood,” Sonja Yatlin commented.

General manager Kevin Daymude said the store’s customer base was loyal, but there simply weren’t enough people to keep the business going.

Three of the remaining Blockbusters in the US have closed this year, including another Alaska store in Wasilla and one in Texas.

With those branches gone, there are now just six US stores set to continue operating. Four are in Alaska, including two in the state’s biggest city, Anchorage, and two others in Oregon.

At its peak Blockbuster had 9,000 stores in the US, with $6bn in annual revenue and a new store opening every 17 hours in 1989.

But the growth of Netflix and other video streaming technologies proved a death knell for the chain, and its distinctive yellow-and-blue branding is now associated with a nostalgia for 90s evenings when watching a movie required leaving the sofa.

Of all the remaining US stores four are now in Alaska. Movie watchers in the state have continued to rent from the stores thanks, in part, to poor internet reach in the state and tough weather conditions which mean it’s preferable to stay inside.

North Pole, a town of about 2,200 people near Fairbanks in interior Alaska was named by a property development company in 1944, in the hope of attracting a toy manufacturer.

A factory was never built, but North Pole keeps Christmas decorations up all year round and each year receives 400,000 letters addressed to Santa Claus, all of which are answered by a team of community volunteers.

Santa Claus, a local celebrity, wrote on Facebook that he was sad to see the Blockbuster close.

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