Independent movie store closes the curtains

Video killed the radio star. And now Internet has killed the video store.

Video West, one of Milwaukee’s last independently owned movie rental shops, will stop renting videos this May after a 17-year run on the city’s Northwest Side. It will shut its doors for good after selling its stock of DVDs.

John Rogge, co-owner of Video West, 8532 W. Lisbon Ave., said he started to notice a drop in business three years ago when the likes of Netflix, Redbox, and especially pirated videos, started to eat away at the profits of brick-and-mortar rental stores.

“I had people come into the store saying they already had Avatar,” he said.

Rogge believes all movie stores, even chains like Blockbuster, are doomed for failure in the near future.

“When people can watch as many movies as they want for $10 a month, we just can’t compete with that,” he said.

June-Young Kim, an assistant professor of management, said family-owned and independent rental stores will be obsolete in the near future because of their lack of presence on the Internet. He does believe, however, Blockbuster may have a chance to survive with a business strategy centered on the Internet.

“There will be some market for movie rental stores because some people prefer to be in a brick store,” Kim said in an e-mail. “But such opportunities will be quite limited in the future.”

Kim said Blockbuster is in such deep financial trouble because it underestimated the changing trend of online movie rentals and failed to use its widely recognized name in promoting online sales.

The 21st century has provided numerous ways for consumers to rent their movies, including online rental stores such as Netflix, $1 per night kiosks, and iTunes, which charges $1.99 per rental.

Dan Geary, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said he has not been to a rental store since he was in high school, and has been using the Internet to see movies.

“I’m a pretty big fan of renting from iTunes,” he said. “I also use semi-legal online streaming sites to watch newer releases.”

There are those who, as Kim said, still prefer to rent movies at the store. Mike Adleman, a sophomore in the College of Communication, said he goes to a Blockbuster near his home in Raleigh, N.C., because of its convenience.

“I hate watching movies on my computer,” Adleman said. “Plus, I like the fact rental stores have all the movies laid out so I know what I want to get.”

While Kim did say that rental stores have a chance to survive in this business environment, he said no movie rental company — not even Netflix or Redbox — are guaranteed to be successes forever due to the development of Apple’s iPad and Internet-based streaming services.

“This is a typical case of technological discontinuities, which can often destroy the whole industry,” he said.

Video West is not planning to stick around to challenge these new technologies. Rogge said the store plans on selling its DVDs for about $7 apiece starting May 7.

“The same reason CD stores went out of business is what is killing video stores today,” he said.

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