End Scene

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Levi Morris of Jasper, left, and Family Video employee Melinda Roach browse movie titles for sale at the store in Jasper on Thursday. The store will close Oct. 25, or when the remaining inventory is sold.

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

For just over 18 years, the Family Video store on Sixth Street in Jasper has offered an escape.

No matter what has happened outside its walls, the inside of the local video rental shop has overflowed with the fantastical, the funny and the frightening.

But the end credits will roll soon roll for the last movie store in Dubois County. It will close on Sunday, Oct. 25 — or when the remaining Blu-rays, DVDs and video games are sold off to customers who still seek out the offline experiences they provide.

Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have vastly changed the way movies and television shows are consumed. In an area with internet connectivity issues, though, and for those who can’t afford or choose not to watch online or with cable, discs have remained a lifeline to cinema and TV.

“For people like me, I think they’ll be just losing another thing that keeps them with social interaction and kind of provides a new experience when you go,” said Danielle Jochim of Huntingburg, a regular who frequently visits the Family Video in Jasper. “I talk to random people when I go to the movie store. So, they kind of introduce me to new things. And I’m like, ‘Oh, well I have to watch this.’ Or, ‘I have to see that.’ Or, ‘I’ve never heard of that before.’ And now, it’s going to be harder to do that.”

Jennifer Masters explained that the local Family Video learned of its fate in early September. Masters lives in Princeton and is the manager at the company’s Jasper and Newburgh locations.

She didn’t foresee the Dubois County store being cut.

News that its run was to end, however, did not come as a surprise.

Family Video Manager Jennifer Masters poses for a portrait among her nearly 4,000 DVDs, Blu-rays and 4K movies at her home in Princeton on Thursday. Masters loves movies because they open up a door to be able to walk in someone else's shoes.

“Honestly, this industry is just shutting down,” she said. “The video industry. You can stream everything. Everything’s online. They have the movies that are in theaters, you can get them at your house now. People don’t even have to leave their home to do anything.”

Karen Hill, a Family Video district manager, added that the surfacing of the novel coronavirus earlier this year did not help. For the six weeks of Indiana’s stay-at-home-order, customers relied on streaming services to get their fix.

“And I feel like that’s a big part of us not doing the business that we had before,” Hill said. “Because they relied on it for that six weeks, that’s just kind of where they stayed.”

Family Video is closing about 200 total locations. Leadership decided which stores to close based on revenue. After reopening following the stay-at-home order, Jasper’s shop stayed busy — but not busy enough for it to continue functioning.

When it shutters for good, the closest remaining Family Video will be the Vincennes store.

Five years after closing the Family Video that Masters ran in Princeton, residents still approach her and ask her when a rental store will return to the area. They recognize the value that the shops provide.

Those businesses provide customer service and foster the formation of friendships built on a shared love of the silver and small screens. They provide an experience for families — a chance for children to have a traditional movie night filled with anticipation and excitement. They also allow for trial runs of video games before moms and dads pay the full price for their kids to own them.

When you speak to those who work at and frequent the businesses, you begin to understand that visiting a rental store is a social experience between employees and customers that just can’t be recreated by a streaming algorithm.

“When I go in there, I ask them all the time, ‘Have you watched this movie? Have you heard anything about this movie?’” Jochim said about her interactions at Family Video. “And it’s good to have social interaction. Because then they kind of get a sense of what you watch. They do for me because I went in there so often, and they would make suggestions, or I would tell them about movies that I saw and they could tell other people.”

Jasper Public Library circulation employee Simon Ringwald searches for a DVD title to place on hold at the library on Thursday. About 20,000 DVDs are stocked at library branches in Jasper, Dubois, Ferdinand and Birdseye.

Discs aren’t perfect, of course; they scratch and break and can be misplaced. But practical reasons for sticking to DVDs do exist.

For one, you only pay for what you want, said Jochim, who watches exclusively on discs. You never have to worry about buffering or slow internet speeds interrupting the flicks. Actively going out to pick up physical copies of movies also makes the viewing experience a more conscious, personal and rewarding one for her.

Renting DVDs locally will soon become harder for Jochim.

But it won’t be impossible.

She has already found her new sanctuary.

The Jasper-Dubois County Public Library system.

About 20,000 DVDs are stocked at its branches in Jasper, Dubois, Ferdinand and Birdseye. Movies, TV series and more are included in that number — and those items were checked out a whopping 89,484 times in 2019.

“There’s a lot of reasons,” Library Director Christine Golden said of why those numbers are so high. “For a lot of people, obviously we have the equipment issues or internet access. We run into a lot of people that, they don’t necessarily have home internet — either that it’s not available or that it’s cost-prohibitive.”

The library limits patrons to five titles per section — meaning five per the kids, young adult and adult categories. Golden explained that some library users regularly browse the moving pictures sections and leave with 15 titles to their name.

And then they come back the next week and get 15 more.

The social experience that movie store shoppers like Jochim treasure can be found at the libraries, too. Golden said she hears people in the movie sections chatting about different films and suggesting titles to each other before checkout.

While the library system does try to purchase new releases for residents, “we’re never going to be your traditional movie store,” Golden said, later adding that the libraries get at least one copy of blockbuster films per branch.

About 2,000 video games are also available at the library locations; they were checked out 6,334 times last year.

Neither the movies nor the games are going anywhere soon.

“I think it’s really worth it,” Golden said, “as you can see by the fact that we’re still circulating that many in 2020.”




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