Video rental stores not quite a relic of the past

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Tonya Bouillon, left, and her boyfriend, Matthew Montgomery, both of Kyana, kiss while they look for movies at Family Video in Jasper on Saturday. Bouillon prefers renting and buying DVDs because they often have special features to watch. "There ain't nothing like bringing a family together like putting a movie in," Montgomery said. The couple started dating four months ago and loves watching movies together. They have a collection of roughly 900 movies. "When we got together, we found out we had a lot of the same movies," Bouillon said. Nic Antaya/The Herald


JASPER — It seemed like the end of an era in 2010 when several movie rental chains closed their doors and the quintessential movie rental store — Blockbuster — severely downsized. Yet, despite the influx of streaming and video-on-demand services, a few video rental stores are holding on.

Locally, Family Video in Jasper — 607 W. 6th St. — and Budjet Video Warehouse in Huntingburg — 1103 N. Main St. — still offer Dubois County residents a place to rent the newest titles. Several Redbox video rental kiosks are located throughout the county, and library patrons can borrow DVDs free with their library cards.

Lindsey Miller, manager of Family Video, says the key to competing in the internet age is offering customers titles they can’t get on streaming sites like Netflix.

“There’s a lot of TV series that people come in and rent because they can’t stream them,” Miller said.

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” is popular, and Family Video also has season two of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” on its shelves. The store also stocks older movies that aren’t available on streaming sites — such as Disney classics — and the newest releases that aren’t available on sites like Netflix yet. Video rental businesses tend to also offer video game rentals, something streaming services don’t.

Bruce Smith of Jasper looks for a movie at Family Video in Jasper on Saturday. Smith comes to Family Video because it's cheaper for him to rent from there than online. "You might see something here that's not on the guide," Smith said.

Despite offering entertainment not available to stream, the video rental industry is experiencing revenue declines nationally, according to a study by IBISWorld, a market research company serving the U.S., United Kingdom and Australia. According to the study, the industry has lost revenue annually since before 2014, though in the last three years the loss has decreased.

The video rental industry may be experiencing revenue drops, but it still fills a niche in the economy.

For people like Damon Langdon of Jasper who doesn’t have internet access or cable, video rental stores offer the chance to watch movies without having to purchase them. Langdon doesn’t mind not having a streaming service in his home, though. He’s discovered that he can get movies from Family Video before a lot of his friends with Netflix can see them.

“Even if I did have Netflix, I’d still come,” he said.

For Whitney Dean of Huntingburg, visiting Family Video in Jasper is a chance to interact with other movie fans. It’s why even in the age of the internet and video streaming, she prefers visiting the store to rent her movies.

“Human interaction is incredibly important,” Dean said. “We take it out of too many things.”

Abby Stinchfield points out a movie to Miguel Casillas, both of Jasper, at the video rental store in Jasper on Saturday. "He said this was his Disneyland on his day off," Stinchfield said. Casillas rents movies from Family Video nearly every day. "I love the old school," Casillas said. 

That human interaction element offers customers service they can’t get with other services such as rental kiosks. Family Video employee Angela Poole recalled one customer who had health problems and returned her videos late. The customer shared her plight with Poole, and Poole waived the late fees.

“You can’t tell a Redbox you had a heart attack,” Poole said.

The days of walking into a Blockbuster and peeking behind an empty video case hoping one of the store’s copies is still available may be over, but for now, at least, young parents can still share that experience with their children at the handful of video stores across the country that aren’t going anywhere soon.

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