The Last Blockbuster is The Marketplace Movie of the Month

On today’s MARKETPLACE MORNING REPORT, David Brancaccio reacts to “The Last Blockbuster” and gleans some financial lessons, selecting it as his documentary pick of the month.

From the Marketplace website:

While our movie this month runs thick with people nostalgic for Blockbuster video stores (may those stores rest in peace), I am not one of those people. To me, Blockbuster signifies disappointment: It was the place where dreams of watching a certain movie went to die with the phrase “Sorry, all our copies are out.” If my culturally assigned job as daddy was to bring home the bacon in the form of the first “Toy Story,” I repeatedly failed in that during the Blockbuster heyday.

Still, I don’t have to fondly miss Blockbuster to draw key economic lessons from this movie. It includes a mergers-and-acquisition fable: When Viacom bought Blockbuster, it milked it of its cash to pay for another acquisition, leaving Blockbuster vulnerable. There’s also a key moment in the history of startup culture, told in the film as if it might be an urban legend but easily confirmed by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings in his book: He recounts that Netflix did offer to sell itself early on to Blockbuster for $50 million, an offer Blockbuster refused. Oh well.

Another economic lesson prompted by “The Last Blockbuster,” if requiring some extra digging on my part, is about the role of what are called “institutions” in economics. Institutions are the rules of the road, official or informal, that shape our economic interactions (as we learned in the textbook we read together last year).

Here’s how “institutions” of the econ kind had to change for the Blockbuster phenomenon to happen. When home video players started hitting the market in earnest in the early 1980s, movie studios freaked out. They anticipated loss of both money and control of their intellectual property. This went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1984 ruled (5-4) that VCRs and tapes were OK, not piracy-on-a-stick. Studios also tried to change the rules in another venue, Congress, where a law took shape to quash the taping technology. The bill wasn’t popular and it never passed. Without these rules of the road established, it’s unlikely there ever would have been a video rental era with Blockbuster front and center.

Make/Shift honored by Webby’s

Just got word that make/SHIFT was named a 2021 Webby Honoree for video/documentary. That puts us in the top 9 finalists of the year (others included Roblox, Google, National Geographic and WebMD). Congratulations to Casey Suchan, Matt Prekop, Tim Cawley, and the entire team who worked on this amazing piece of brand marketing.

Check out this Webby’s case study to learn more about Make/SHIFT and the strategy behind it.

Why Did You Kill Me Debuts at #1

In the last month we’ve had 3 of the top 10 highest rated films on Netflix — THE LAST BLOCKBUSTER, MURDER AMONG THE MORMONS, and now WHY DID YOU KILL ME?

The New #1 Movie on Netflix Is a Must-Watch True-Crime Doc Where the Victim’s Family Tries to Catfish the Killer

During our daily Netflix scroll, we couldn’t help but notice that Why Did You Kill Me? is finally getting the recognition it deserves.

The true-crime documentary just premiered earlier this week, and it recently became the number one movie on Netflix’s list of most-watched flicks. (It’s currently ranked ahead of Thunder Force, The Little Rascals, The Stand In, Saving Private Ryan, Legally Blonde and Sniper: Ghost Shooter.)

The Oxy Kingpins Premieres at Virtual SXSW

From Variety: “The Oxy Kingpins” is a documentary that feels like it could be a Martin Scorsese movie. It’s “The Wolf of Wall Street” meets “The Insider” — the story of a scurrilous illegal business, and one of the hotshot thrill junkies who rode it to riches, and how that business connects up to a much larger corporate racket.

From Produced by media company The Young Turks and executive produced by Chris Smith and Adam McKay, it plays out like McKay’s “The Big Short” in particular, displaying the different hierarchies of drug dealers in a national catastrophe, with David vs. Goliath dynamics with a frustrating imbalance of accountability. 


Edited by:
Lise Lavallee
Barry Poltermann
Jeremy Stulberg

Last Blockbuster

World’s last Blockbuster video store more popular after Netflix show

First, it debuted at the #4 position on Netflix Most Watched Movie’s list, and now comes this news on The Last Blockbuster, from The Chicago Tribune:

“Since the documentary aired March 15, people from all over the world have sent flowers and called the store just to say “thank you” for staying open. In the backroom, staff members have been busy packaging thousands of online orders for Blockbuster T-shirts, hats and face masks, which are all made by Bend businesses.

“It’s a little bit crazy, but it’s a very good thing,” store manager Sandi Harding told The Bulletin in Bend. “We’ll take a little crazy if it means keeping the store open.”

Harding is the star of the movie, which peaked as high as the No. 4 movie in the United States since it appeared on Netflix March 15.”

Film Threat Explores Make|Shift

Just before the pandemic hit last year, we finished a documentary about advertising (produced for WP Engine) called Make|SHIFT. It is hitting streaming platforms this week. Launching to some great press and attention, our favorite so far is this above FILM THREAT interview between the iconic Chris Gore and the directors, Casey Suchan and Tim Cawley.

FilmInternational: “This nifty, zippy documentary is all about the power of storytelling, and the filmmakers gets some engaging subjects to talk about their craft.”

EyeForFilmUK: “If you’ve never given advertising much though, you’ll find this documentary a real eye-opener. perhaps more impressive, however, is how entertaining it is for those of us who have worked in the industry.”


The Last Blockbuster Netflix Premiere’s at #4

“The Last Blockbuster” premiered at an amazing #4 of all movies on Netflix!

Netflix’s New #4 Movie Tells the Story of the Last Remaining Blockbuster Video

It’s been more than a decade since Blockbuster Video declared bankruptcy and announced that it was closing all but one location. And now, Netflix is making us feel nostalgic with a brand-new documentary about the last remaining store.

Introducing The Last Blockbuster, which is a tribute to the movie rental chain. Although the film just hit the streaming service earlier this week, it has already claimed a spot on Netflix’s list of top-rated movies, which features must-watch flicks like Yes Day, Savages and Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal.

Murder Among the Mormons Debuts at #2

This New True-Crime Series Is Already Netflix’s #2 Show After Just One Day

Netflix just dropped a brand-new true-crime documentary yesterday and it’s already made its way onto Netflix’s most popular TV show list. Yup, the doc series is officially the number two show on the streaming platform after only one short day. And how have we never heard about this before?!

Called Murder Among the Mormons, the three-part series centers around a trio of bombings in 1985 that shocked the Salt Lake City Mormon community and threatened the foundations of the church altogether. Although it has yet to be reviewed by Rotten Tomatoes, audiences are seemingly already enthralled.

Murder Among the Mormons A Critical Smash

Our latest Netflix true-crime documentary Murder Among the Mormons is a critical smash. We are proud to congratulate Matt Prekop for his work as editor of “Murder Among the Mormons”, working with the amazing Greg O’Toole.

Chicago Sun-Times: “…an invaluable, extensive and journalistically sound record of events that will fascinate.”

The Wall Street Journal: “…a combination detective story, crime thriller and artistic triumph of nonfiction cinema.”

TV Guide: “It’s the whydunnit — the mind-bending master plan exposed in the final episode — that truly sets Murder Among the Mormons apart as one of the strangest and most compelling additions to the true crime genre.”

Truth to Power in Theaters and on VOD

On March 19, Oscilloscope Laboratories will release Truth to Power, an acclaimed documentary on Serj Tankian, the Grammy-winning lead singer of System Of A Down. With exclusive interviews, adventures, and original footage personally filmed by Serj, TRUTH TO POWER allows audiences backstage access to an international rock star whose faith in music not only revolutionized heavy metal, but also world events.

The film was edited by Michel Vollmann and story supervisor was Barry Poltermann.

Rolling Stone calls it “well-paced, tightly edited and engaging, and at times, it’s quite inspiring.” **** (out of 5)

Time Out calls it “an access-all-areas insight into what makes this rock icon tick.”

You can find it now at for digital screenings.

Greenwich Buys Sundance Doc ‘Whirlybird’

From Deadline: Greenwich Entertainment (Echo in the Canyon, Free Solo) has acquired U.S. rights to Whirlybird from A&E IndieFilms. The doc, which premiered at last year’s Sundance, is the feature debut of Matt Yoka. It follows a husband-and-wife news helicopter team who covered some of Los Angeles’ most historic events.

Encompassing high-profile stories of the 1980s and 90s such as the L.A. riots and the infamous O.J Simpson Bronco chase, the film shows how the pair captured the city’s recent history, and also shines a light on the adrenaline-fuelled culture of live news.

Pic was produced by Yoka and Diane Becker with executive producers Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato, and Josh Braun. Elaine Frontain Bryant, Rob Sharenow, and Molly Thompson are executive producers for A&E IndieFilms.

“The Oxy Kingpins” to Premiere at Virtual SXSW

From the LA Times:

One year after COVID shut it down, the SXSW Film Festival announces full virtual lineup:

Documentary Feature Competition: “Kid Candidate” directed by Jasmine Stodel; “Lily Topples The World” directed by Jeremy Workman; “Not Going Quietly” directed by Nicholas Bruckman; “The Oxy Kingpins” directed by Brendan FitzGerald; “The Return: Life After ISIS” directed by Alba Sotorra Clua; “Subjects of Desire” directed by Jennifer Holness; and “United States vs. Reality Winner” directed by Sonia Kennebeck.

The Oxy Kingpins was edited by Lise Lavallee, Jeremy Stulberg and Barry Poltermann.


IDA Awards Nominations Announced

The International Documentary Association has announced the nominees for its 36th Annual IDA Documentary Awards, and a certain streaming service dominates.

Boys State is nominated for BEST EDITING, and I Am Not Alone is nominated for BEST WRITING.

The nominees are:

Best Editing

Best Writing

I am Not Alone

Oscar Season is Here

The Hollywood Reporter cites both Boy’s State and I Am Not Alone as top contenders for this years Best Documentary award. From the article:

I Am Not Alone chronicles the incredible story of the recent Armenian revolution, is absolutely outstanding — stranger than fiction and tremendously inspiring.”

Boys State, the winner of Sundance’s Grand Jury prize for docs, which troublingly shows how politically-interested teens at a mock government program now emulate Trump-era tactics and obfuscation.”


The film about the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” announces LA, NYC, DC, and Boston release

LOS ANGELES—I Am Not Alone, the award-winning film about the 2018 “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia released its official trailer on Wednesday and announced its United States theatrical release.

After sweeping awards at the Toronto International Film Festival, AFI Fest, and Doc NYC, the thrilling documentary will now open in theaters across the country: from April 10 in Los Angeles, April 17 in New York and Fresno, and April 24 in Washington, DC, Boston, and more.

With unprecedented access to both the leader of the movement (and Armenia’s current prime minister) Nikol Pashinyan and the toppled ruler Serzh Sarkisian, the film follows the incredible true story of the revolution that rocked Armenia in the spring of 2018. The film has been praised as “masterful” by Vice and “an inspiring portrait of democratic self-determination” by The Hollywood Reporter, clocking in a 100% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 9.3 audience rating on IMDb.

TRUTH TO POWER to Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival

We are excited to announce that Truth to Power, a film edited by our own Michael Vollmann, will be premiering at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival.

In 2001, the band System Of A Down partnered with music producer Rick Rubin to record their sophomore album. Against all odds, and during one of the most painful and precarious months in American history, the album Toxicityskyrocketed up the Billboard chart and catapulted to Number One. But just as System Of A Down achieved their commercial triumph, in a post-9/11 world their politically-charged lyrics were suddenly the subject of scrutiny; they were thrust into headlines, and their songs were pulled off the radio. The band’s global fanbase saw in frontman Serj Tankian a spokesperson for their disillusionment. Tankian had always been outspoken and political, both on stage and off, but when he found his message inspiring a popular movement on the other side of the world, he began to realize that his music was more revolutionary than even he could imagine.

The film follows Tankian down an unexpected path as his passion for human rights and activism led him to become a social justice organizer in Armenia. Fueled by interviews with the band, their producers, and fellow rock icons, Truth To Power is both an energizing rockumentary and an inspiring call to action for our turbulent times.—Lucy Mukerjee

After the movie, a special performance by System of a Down’s Serj Tankian will be accompanied by the NYU Symphony Orchestra.

Boys State & Whirlybird are both Sundance Winners

Congrats to Boys State for winning the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, and Whirlybird producers Diane Becker & Melanie Miller who won the Producers Award for Documentary Features.

The full list of winners appears below:


Grand Jury Prize: “Minari”

Audience Award: “Minari”

Directing: Radha Blank, “The 40-Year-Old Version”

Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Edson Oda, “Nine Days.”

Special Jury Award for Ensemble Cast: “Charm City Kings”

Special Jury Auteur Award: Josephine Decker, “Shirley”

Special Jury Award for Neorealism: Eliza Hittman, “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”


Grand Jury Prize: “Boys State”

Audience Award: “Crip Camp”

Directing: Garrett Bradley, “Time”

Special Jury Award for Emerging Filmmaker: Arthur Jones, “Feels Good Man”

Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking: Elyse Steinberg, Josh Kriegman, Eli Despres, “The Fight”

Special Jury Award for Editing: Tyler H. Walk, “Welcome to Chechnya”

Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling: Kirsten Johnson, “Dick Johnson Is Dead”


Grand Jury Prize: “Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness”

Audience Award: “Identifying Features”

Directing Award: Maïmouna Doucouré, “Cuties”

Special Jury Award for Acting: Ben Whishaw, “Surge”

Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking: Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection”

Special Jury Award for Best Screenplay: Fernanda Valadez & Astrid Rondero. “Identifying Features”


Grand Jury Prize: “Epicentro”

Audience Award: “The Reason I Jump”

Directing Award: Iryna Tsilyk, “The Earth is Blue as an Orange”

Special Jury Award for Editing: Mila Aung Thwin, Sam Soko, Ryan Mullins, “Softie”

Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Micrea Topoleanu, Radu Ciorniciuc, “Acasa, My Home”

Special Jury Award for Creative Storytelling: Benjamin Ree, “The Painter and the Thief”


NEXT Audience Award: “I Carry You With Me”

NEXT Innovator Award: “I Carry You With Me”

Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize: “Tesla”

Sundance Institute NHK Award: Kirsten Tan, “Higher”

Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Narrative Features: Huriyyah Muhammad, “Farewell Amor”

Sundance Institute/Amazon Studios Producers Award for Documentary Features: Diane Becker & Melanie Miller of Fishbowl Films, “Whirlybird”

Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Documentary: Carla Gutierrez

Sundance Institute/Adobe Mentorship Award for Editing Narrative: Affonso Gonçalves


Boys State Sets Record Festival Sale

Apple and A24 have acquired worldwide rights to the documentary Boys State, a political coming-of-age story which examines the health of American democracy. A source pegged the deal at $12 million, which marks the largest sale for a documentary ever at a festival. A24 will release the film theatrically.

The previous record for the largest documentary sale at Sundance was 2019’s Knock Down the House, which sold for $10 million. Sources say Netflix and Hulu were also bidding at $12 million.


Whirlybird premieres at Sundance to rave reviews. From the Hollywood Reporter:

“Unflinching and often exhilarating.”

“Zoey Tur’s reign as Los Angeles’ preeminent eye-in-the-sky helicopter reporter preceded my own arrival here, but her presence in the semi-recent run of documentaries tied to the O.J. Simpson trial and to the L.A. riots made it clear that in addition to being a reporter of almost unfathomable influence, Tur had a fascinating history of her own.

That history gets respectful-yet-clear-eyed treatment in Matt Yoka’s Whirlybird, part of the U.S. Documentary Competition field at the ongoing Sundance Film Festival. Whirlybird is a bittersweet portrait of the personal journey that led to Tur coming out as trans in 2013, paired with a chronicle of the explosion of breaking-news TV coverage in Los Angeles in the ’80s and ’90s, and balances those things without sugar-coating, in largely impressive fashion.

Perhaps more than anything, Whirlybird is a complicated depiction of a marriage, hardly the first chronicle of a family’s disintegration, but not one you’ve ever seen recounted in exactly this way. One thing viewers will surely notice immediately is that Marika, Zoey and their children Jamie and Katy (the latter an MSNBC reporter following in the family business) aren’t being interviewed together. It’s equally unavoidable to notice that Marika, Jamie and Katy all refer to Zoey as “Bob” or “Dad,” and that they use “he/him” pronouns. This is a family that still has issues and you can sense some, but definitely not all, of them being worked through on-camera as the film progresses.

This is appropriate because all of the highs and lows of Zoey and Marika’s marriage were caught on-camera. These are home

movies on broadcast-quality tape, as Marika puts it. That means the arguments, and some are vicious, are captured at that same high standard (and usually at elevated altitudes). This is n

ot a movie intended to make Zoey look good, and her regret and introspection are palpable, ultimately dominating the film in perhaps the same way that her obsessions came to dominate the family.

Yoka has a good sense of what his story is here. The doc restricts interview subjects to the core Tur family and to helicopter collaborator Larry Welk, presumably on the grounds that you don’t need other talking heads to say things like, “Man, that was a death-defying thing they did!” or “Boy, that ended up being the dominant image of the L.A. riots” or “What they did with that helicopter was really important.” You just understand. And when Zoey’s own footage features her getting into physical altercations with police officers and getting threatened by Sean Penn’s entourage, nobody from outside of the situation would be able to offer more trenchant commentary than Zoey’s observation: “Well, back before the sex change and estrogen, I was infused with this wonder hormone called testosterone.”

Whirlybird is informative and thrilling. It’s also profound and sad. And maybe it’s got threads of inspiration and uplift as well. That’s a wide range of responses, and it’s as much as you could have hoped for if you watched those Los Angeles-set documentaries and knew Zoey had a great story of her own.”

Directed by Matt Yoka

Editor: Brian Palmer

Co-Editor: Matt Yoka

Story Supervisor: Barry Poltermann

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann Scores in Netflix Ratings

Netflix has unveiled its most popular titles internationally with true-crime doc The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann topping the UK list.

In the United States, The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann ranked as the seventh most popular documentary on Netflix.

As reported in DEADLINE, “The streamer hasn’t officially revealed the methodology, but the list is thought to have been based on the number of accounts in each country that have watched at least two minutes of a title during its first 28 days on Netflix this year. For series, only the most popular season is counted and for shows and movies that have been released recently, the rankings are based on 28-day projections derived from the initial sampling.

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, which told the story of the missing British child, who vanished from the seaside resort of Praia de Luz in Portugal, while on holiday with her family. launched in March. It was directed by Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened and Jim & Andy director Chris Smith, produced by Pulse Films and Paramount Television and exec produced by Emma Cooper and Thomas Benski.

‘The Crown’ Fails To Make Netflix’s Lists Of Its Most Popular Shows In The UK

Top 10 Most Popular Releases of 2019 (UK):
The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
6 Underground
Murder Mystery
The Witcher
The Irishman
After Life
Stranger Things 3
Our Planet
Sex Education
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes: Limited Series



Two New Projects in Sundance Doc Competition

This just in — we are excited to have two films in the Sundance Documentary competition this year.

Dir: Matt Yoka; Editor, Brian Palmer; Story Supervisor, Barry Poltermann; Additional Editing, Erin Elders; Assistant Editor, Dan Black.
Soaring above the chaotic spectacle of ‘80s and ‘90s Los Angeles, a young couple revolutionized breaking news with their brazen helicopter reporting. Culled from this news duo’s sprawling video archive is a poignant L.A. story of a family in turbulence hovering over a city unhinged.

Boys State
Dirs: Jesse Moss, Amanda McBaine; Editor Jeff Gilbert; Co-Editor Michael Vollmann; Assistant Editors Sam Kirchoff and Michael Bourne. In an unusual experiment, a thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

Good luck to everyone!