PHILADELPHIA — When Kim Lettiere filled the little Free Blockbuster she erected with her own DVDs, she was sure her copy of "Steel Magnolias" would remain untouched for a while.
The people of her neighborhood decided otherwise.
"I put in 'Steel Magnolias' thinking that it wouldn't be a hit but that was one of the first ones gone," she said.
Turns out, Philadelphians need a good cry and a little Dolly Parton just as much as anybody.
A nostalgic nod to the beloved video store chain, Free Blockbusters — like the Little Free Libraries that that inspired them — are small public boxes (usually repurposed newspaper honor boxes painted blue with the yellow Blockbuster logo) where people can leave a DVD and/or take a DVD for free.
But it's not just DVDs. Anything that you'd find at a real Blockbuster, from popcorn to video games, is up for grabs (or dropping off) too. And there's no need to worry about laminated membership cards or late fees because there's no expectation that the movies will be returned, only that people will replace them with other items from their own collection.
The concept was created last year by Brian Morrison, a Delaware County native living in Los Angeles, Calif., who calls himself the "Secretary of FreeBlockbuster.org, a nonprofit association."
"There are a lot of abandoned newspaper boxes around L.A.," said Morrison (as a sad trombone played somewhere in the distance for print journalism.) "We're a city that loves movies, and free movie boxes seemed like a great way to rehabilitate commercial blight."
The first Free Blockbuster went up on Feb. 27, 2019, outside of a grocery story in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, and since then other people have run with this be-kind-and-help-your-neighbor-unwind concept, taking it nationwide, from Oklahoma to Virginia.
Lettiere's Free Blockbuster, which went up on East Columbia Avenue near Girard Avenue, is the 18th in the country, but not the first in the Philly area. That distinction goes to Susan Triggiani, Morrison's mother and the owner of Agency by the Mall, an insurance, tags, and notary business across from the Springfield Mall in Delaware County.