A Blockbuster outlet circa 2006.Getty Images
Last year a DAO (short for Decentralized Autonomous Organization) managed to buy a one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album and another came damn close to raising the millions needed to buy a rare copy of the US Constitution. Now another DAO, which is a sort of blockchain-based cross between a club, a startup and a cooperative, is setting its sights on acquiring that bright yellow and blue beacon of 1990s nostalgia: Blockbuster.
BlockbusterDAO aims to “liberate Blockbuster and form a DAO to collectively govern the brand as we turn Blockbuster into the first-ever DeFilm (decentralized film) streaming platform,” according to a prospectus posted on a Discord server created in late December.
But in this Blockbuster tale the twist comes at the beginning, where we learn that the daughter of one of the men that helped build the brand is now helping to build up BlockbusterDAO.
“To possibly be part of a project that would carry on the legacy (my father) built was an exciting and surreal moment for me,” Michelle Berrard, daughter of the late Steven Berrard, told me.
Berrard is an entrepreneur who owns a TITLE Boxing Club boxing fitness franchise in Orlando and six Pivotal Fitness locations in Charleston. She says she first learned of the DAO effort via Twitter and immediately reached out to get involved.
Redirecting a legacy
The elder Berrard was Blockbuster co-CEO for over a decade in its heyday; he passed away in 2021 after a successful career in business building other brands like AutoNation and RumbleOn.
After Berrard left the company in 1996, Blockbuster continued to dominate the video rental market for several more years, before a precipitous decline that led to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in 2010 and the eventual shuttering of all but one franchise that still operates in Bend, Oregon. The Blockbuster brand and its remaining assets are currently owned by Dish Network.
Enter BlockbusterDAO and a mystery man who goes simply by the pseudonymous handle “Tasafila.”
“Tasafila stands for ‘Take a second and fall in love again’ and it’s been the core ethos of my investment strategy and how I build communities and projects,” he told me via direct message on Discord, the chat app where BlockbusterDAO (and numerous other DAOs) exists. “Besides my background as a startup founder and growth marketer, my passion for much of my life has been as a screenwriter.”
Tasafila would not reveal his legal name to me because he said his involvement with the project “will likely make things unnecessarily messy” with his current full-time employer. Contributing pseudonymously is widespread across DAOs and a crypto community that values both privacy and transparency while also seeming to embrace the resulting paradox.
“I’ve told the community that I will dox myself before I ever raise a dime for this project,” he reassured me.
For now the plan is to raise those dimes – $5 million dollars worth – by selling NFTs, which is another crypto-based three-letter acronym (for non-fungible token) that you’ve probably at least heard of by now. It’s easiest to think of an NFT as a digital collectible, although it’s really a bit more nuanced than that.
Blockbuster to blockchain
The hope is that a community, which includes Michelle Berrard and thousands of other members organizing on Discord, can raise both the funds and the public pressure to encourage Dish to sell Blockbuster.
“This is an opportunity for all of us to get together as a huge community from all types of businesses and experience levels to have a powerful and positive impact on the lives of so many creative people working in the entertainment and technology industries,” Berrard said.
What exactly happens to Blockbuster if the DAO gets its hands on it will ultimately be decided by a collective decision-making process that is baked into the ethos and the governance of most DAOs. But Tasafila has laid out a suggested roadmap that starts with creating Blockbuster crypto tokens (the tokens could have an ownership and/or governance component over the DAO) and leads to purchasing new films, launching a streaming service with a crypto component and creating original film and gaming content, also tied to blockchain.
Throughout the whole process, big decisions would be made by the community rather than a centralized board or group of executives, hence “DeFilm.”
“Blockbuster represents something intrinsic in the hearts and minds of people all over the world,” he explained. “But what gets people truly excited is the product we aim to build, a world in which the audience is the new studio executive.”
So far, over 8,000 people have joined the BlockbusterDAO Discord server, where a lively discussion and a lot of brainstorming has been taking place over the past few weeks.
Tasafila notes the start of fundraising efforts remains to be determined while a working group tackles developing the main DeFilm concept.
“It will come when the time is right. For now, we are working around the clock to create an incredible product.”