How Quickly Will Video Stores Die?

By at July 18, 2007 | 11:19 pm | Print

The first video rental store appeared in L.A. in 1979. Nearly 30 years later, the in-store movie rental experience seems destined to disappear.

1) Blockbuster announced in late June they’ll be closing 282 stores. In 2006, they closed 290, many in close proximity to other Blockbuster locations.

2) In early July, Movie Gallery — the 2nd largest U.S. video store chain, with 4600 N. American stores — announced they could not meet credit obligations and may default. CEO Joe Malugen was quoted as saying “We, like most of the industry, have experienced a sharp decline in our rental business.” Movie Gallery may attempt to speed up store closings or examine other options, like selling.

3) Rent-by-mail giant Netflix announced deals with a series of actors including Tim Robbins, Clint Eastwood and Maggie Gyllenhaal, all looking for the right outlet for personal projects. Additionally, Netflix is now offering movies via PC, and building its exclusive distribution model, as stars and distributors gain confidence in the service’s “recommendation” system.

As the Netflix vs. Blockbuster online battle wages on and downloading movies via services like Amazon’s Unbox gets more accessible (and competitively priced), the reasons for store visits — and ownership — are dwindling.

GEEK NOTE: That first video store? Video Station, started when George Atkinson bought — and then offered — 50 classic movies on video including The French Connection and The Sound of Music. Fees were $10 a day, but very few people could even afford VCRs in 1979.

QUESTION: Would you care if video stores disappeared? How do you currrently get movies to watch at home? TELL US

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  1. Ben Harper, 10 years ago Reply

    Can’t wait to have iTunes on my TV or some similar contraption where I can just click and buy movies and have them stored for later viewing.

  2. und3rdog, 10 years ago Reply

    Two years ago I would have happily kissed video stores goodbye, especially since the Big One (in our area) bought out a lot of my favorite music stores and then closed them. But since shipped disks can be returned in-store, I again hope that somehow they remain.

    BTW IMHO the competition in the online war could counter-strike with a pricing attack… not sure why that’s not happening. Not sure if downloaded movie services will be a serious contender in the next decade though since it requires a few items the average citizen doesn’t have: a teeny bit of tech know-how, bandwidth and disc space and other necessary hardware.

  3. Norm S., 10 years ago Reply

    - Ben Harper –
    Sounds like you want a two-way Apple TV drive…

    – und3rdog –
    I agree the average person isn’t going to have all the goods to download movies. But the smarter companies will provide stuff like Apple TV so folks will need less and less ramp-up. You’ve got storage space and plug-and-play… if you have broadband connectivity (and a current enough computer), you’re on your way. I picture that being a step or two easier in the years to come.

    -Norm S.

  4. Joe T., 10 years ago Reply

    Personally I would not care if video stores disappeared from 90% of the US. I can understand having video stores in poorer communities, but in most places people either see their movies at the theater, or just buy any movies they really want at Best Buy or whatever. If it’s an older movie you can order it on Amazon or CD Baby (or eBay). If you’re inclined, you can buy movies on Netflix. I’m not one for downloading large bundles of content — legally or illegally. It just clogs up my system. Nonetheless, I truly believe this is a service industry whose time has literally come and gone. Pretty soon it’ll be as obsolete as the typewriter or the magnetic compass.

  5. Norm S., 10 years ago Reply

    - Joe T. –

    You make good points. But what about the act of browsing in the store? Some people find that enjoyable. Personally, I think there are few stores in this country whose inventory doesn’t suck.

    Talk to you again. Thanks for the feedback.

    -Norm S.

  6. Joe T., 10 years ago Reply

    Personally, I love browsing for CDs in a traditional record shop. I greatly lament the demise of the record store… recently Tower Records bit the dust and a huge Tower close to my house liquidated everything. It was sad.

    But records and CDs, to me, are very different from films. Browsing in a good, big record store is like entering a treasure trove — you know that no matter how much you’ve learned about music, you’ll always find something new, or make some new connection between something you know and love, and something related or influenced by it, etc. But to me, film knowledge is much more easily catalogued and available. I love movies, but to me browsing through DVDs doesn’t even begin to match the thrill of browsing through CDs or vinyl records.

  7. Norm S., 10 years ago Reply

    - Joe T. –

    I agree with you, but there are video stores — the really rare ones in big cities or college towns — that have the little gems to discover. There’s a store in Somerville, MA that has an entire section of low-budget, super indie VHS movies. That stuff’s great.

    You sound like a hardcore music guy, so I can understand your love for CDs and LPs over movies.

    By the way, The Tower Records here in Boston, with an unbelievably cool, highly visible location, died a while ago.

    Talk to you again.

    -Norm S.

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