Video rental shop

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The exterior of a video rental store in Austin, Texas
Display case of DVDs in a former Blockbuster video rental store

A video rental shop/store is a physical retail business that rents home videos such as movies, prerecorded TV shows, video game discs and other content. Typically, a rental shop conducts business with customers under conditions and terms agreed upon in a rental agreement or contract, which may be implied, explicit, or written. Many video rental stores also sell previously viewed movies and/or new unopened movies.

In the 1980s, video rental stores rented VHS and Betamax tapes of movies, although most stores dropped Beta tapes when VHS won the format war late in the decade. In the 2000s, video rental stores began renting DVDs, a digital format with higher resolution than VHS. In the late 2000s, stores began selling and renting Blu-ray discs, a format that supports high definition resolution.

Widespread adoption of video on demand and video streaming services such as Netflix in the 2010s sharply reduced the revenues of most major rental chains, leading to the closure of most locations. Due to the precipitous drop in demand, few rental shops have survived into the present day. As of 2022, the small number of remaining stores tend to cater to film buffs seeking classic and historic films, art films, independent films, and cult films that are less available on streaming platforms.

Video rental store in Berwyn, Illinois in the US.

History[edit]

1970s[edit]

The world's oldest business renting out copies of movies for private use was opened by Eckhard Baum in Kassel, Germany in the summer of 1975. Baum collected movies on Super 8 film as a hobby and lent pieces of his collection to friends and acquaintances. Because they showed great interest in his films, he came up with the idea of renting out films as a sideline.[1] Over the years, videotapes and optical discs were added to the range. Baum still operates the business as of September 2015[2] and was portrayed in the June 2006 documentary film Eckis Welt by Olaf Saumer.[3]

The first professionally managed video rental store in the U.S., Video Station, was opened by George Atkinson in December 1977 at 12011 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. After 20th Century Fox had signed an agreement with Magnetic Video founder Andre Blay to license him 50 of their titles for sale directly to consumers, amongst them Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, M*A*S*H, Hello, Dolly!, Patton, The French Connection, The King And I and The Sound Of Music, Atkinson bought all the titles in both VHS and Beta formats, and offered them for rent.[4][5][6] Such stores led to the creation of video rental chains such as West Coast Video, Blockbuster Video, and Rogers Video in the 1980s.

Sony released its first commercially available video recorders in the United States on June 7, 1975,[7] and the following year, on October 25, 1976, Universal and Disney filed a lawsuit against Sony in the case known as Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. The two studios tried to ban the sales of VCRs, and later the rental of movies, which would have destroyed the video rental business in the US. Justice Harry Blackmun sided with the studios, while Justice John Paul Stevens ruled in Sony's favor. Eventually, on January 17, 1984, the Supreme Court overruled the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals after Justice Sandra Day O’Connor changed her mind, leading to a 5-to-4 ruling.[8][9][10][11]

1980s[edit]

Two New Orleans residents pick out films in 1988 in this "Family photos of Infrogmation".

Video games started being rented in video shops from 1982. Some of the earliest game cartridges available for rental included Donkey Kong, Frogger and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. However, not many stores made them available for rental at the time.[12] In Japan, Nintendo Entertainment System games could be rented as early as 1983. However, in response to rental stores making unauthorized copies of game cartridges, video game companies, as well as the Recording Industry Association of Japan and trade associations, lobbied for an amendment to the Japanese Copyright Act that banned the rental of video games in Japan in 1984.[13]

By mid-1985, the United States had 15,000 video rental stores, and many record, grocery, and drug stores also rented videotapes.[14] By May 1988, the number of specialty video stores was estimated to be 25,000, in addition to 45,000 other outlets that also offered video rentals. Grocery stores in the US rented tapes for as little as $0.49 as loss leaders.[15] The press discussed the VCR "and the viewing habits it has engendered — the Saturday night trip down to the tape rental store to pick out for a couple of bucks the movie you want to see when you want to see it".[16] Video rental stores had customers of all ages and were part of a fast-growing business. By 1987, for example, Pennsylvania had 537 stores that primarily rented videotapes, with annual spending per resident of $10.50. By 1989, six years after its founding, Philadelphia's West Coast Video operated over 700 stores in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom.[17] In 1987, home video market revenues for the year surpassed box office revenues.[18]

With the introduction of the thin, lightweight DVD disc, movie rental by mail services became feasible, introducing a new source of competition for brick and mortar stores.

In the 1980s, it was common for shops to rent equipment—typically VHS recorders—as well as tapes. Some video shops also had adults-only sections containing X-rated videos. To cope with the videotape format war of the 1970s and 1980s, some stores initially stocked both VHS and Betamax cassettes, while others specialized in one format or the other. During the 1980s, most stores eventually became all-VHS, contributing to the eventual demise of Beta.

1990s[edit]

In the late 1990s, DVDs began appearing in video rental stores. Rogers Video was the first chain to provide DVD rentals in Canada. Other chains and independent stores later transitioned to the newer format. Similarly, many stores rented Blu-ray Disc movies after the high definition optical disc format war ended in the late 2000s.

Redbox automated retail kiosk for DVD and video game disc rental

Widespread availability of video on demand (VOD) on cable TV systems and VHS-by-mail services offered consumers a way of watching movies without having to leave home.

2000s[edit]

With the advent of the World Wide Web, Internet services such as Netflix became increasingly popular starting in the mid–2000s. All the new ways of watching movies greatly reduced demand for video rental shops, and many closed as a result.[19][20][21] In 2000, there were 27,882 stores renting videos open in the US,[22] by late 2015, the number was down to 4,445.[23] Over 86% of the 15,300 U.S. stores (specializing in video rentals) open in 2007 were reported to have closed by 2017, bringing the total to approximately 2,140 remaining stores.[19] The total income from brick and mortar rentals for 2017 was about $390 million.[24]

In mid-June 2020, Malaysian video rental chain Speedy Video closed its 14 remaining shops in response to competition from satellite television and streaming platforms.[25][26] In Asia, video rental stores faced the additional challenge of dealing with rampant video piracy.[27][28]

On January 5, 2021, Glenview, Illinois-based Family Video announced it was closing all its remaining video rental stores.[29] The company was the last remaining video rental chain in the United States; its closing marked the end of large video rental chains.[citation needed]

In the 2020s, some video stores facing the loss of their business model have adapted by becoming non-profit organizations that focus on preserving an archive of film heritage and educating people about cinema.[30] Operating as a non-profit enables a video store to use volunteer personnel and apply for foundation grants, which can make it feasibleto operate with less rental revenue.[30]

Legacy and sociocultural impact[edit]

According to Daniel Herbert, a film professor at University of Michigan who has written about the history of video rental stores, "[t]rips to the video store helped cement a local “movie culture” and contribute to the social fabric of a community in small but meaningful ways", in that customers sought advice from staff on what film to rent or chatted with other customers about "what to watch and why."[31]

Film critic Collin Souter states that video stores gave "film lovers [a place] to congregate" and make "discoveries by browsing" the racks of film shelves, with the store providing a "film school, a social gathering, a place of cinematic discovery, date nights, and rites of passage."[32] He underscores the impact that video stores had by noting that when film director Quentin Tarantino, a former video rental store employee, learned that Video Archives in Hermosa Beach California (the store he had worked at) was closing, he bought the entire "inventory and recreated the store in his basement", as for him, "that place [was] a lifesaver."[32]

A 2018 article about video stores states that they are appealing because "people crave being together to pick entertainment" and the chance to "chat with a staff member" "who can be relied upon for reviews and recommendations and who truly love what they do", while at the same time being "part of a "community of like-minded individuals."[33] One argument for video stores is the element of investment; if "you’re taking time to walk into a physical place, grab something and take it home, you’ll be at least a little bit invested."[34]

As well, there is the "allure of browsing" the physical copies on the shelves (an appeal likened to the resurgence of interest in vinyl records in the 2020s).[33]

Bay St Video in Toronto has a large, varied selection that includes historic silent films.

Video rental stores such as Toronto's Bay St Video have a selection that is larger than a streaming platform's movie list. The owner of Bay St Video states that they "have movies that go back to the beginning of filmmaking, from the first silent films ever made to stuff that was just in theatres – and everything in between. We have the history of cinema.” He calls the store's selection of films "libraryesque – almost like an archive or a museum.” [34] Benjamin Owens, the owner of Film is Truth, a non-profit video rental outlet, points out that video stores may carry a larger selection of films than streaming platforms; he notes that while the "largest streaming provider, Netflix, has only 6,000 titles", Film is Truth has over 20,000 titles.[30] An additional benefit that video stores provide to communities is that they give access to films to people with poor access to Internet and those who are not comfortably with adapting to online consumption.[30]

In 2010, the small number of remaining video stores have launched International Video Store Day, which is on the third Saturday in October, to promote awareness of video rental stores and their unique contribution to film culture. [33]

Film professor Daniel Herbert says that the demise of the video store may affect independent film production; he states that when the "large [video store] chains collapsed, studios lost a major channel for [low-budget, feature-length] indie movies", a format that streaming services are less likely to produce, as they prefer to make binge-watching-orientated television serials.[35] Richard Brody argues that from "1985 and 1995,... [there was] a generation of filmmakers that included Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh, whose first films, Reservoir Dogs and Sex, Lies, and Videotape, respectively, were financed" by the home video market.[36] Brody argues that for aspiring filmmakers, video stores they worked at became "launching pads of true outsiders", and provided "counter-programming" to film school training by valorizing "anti-academic values of disorder, spontaneity, and enthusiasm."[36]

In popular culture[edit]

The impact of video rental stores on popular culture is attested to by the use of video stores as a setting for a number of films from the 1980s to the 2000s. Examples include Be Kind Rewind (2008), in which Jack Black and Mos Def play rental store staff in a shop scheduled for demolition; Clerks (1994), which depicts a day in the life of two bored, annoyed video store clerks; Speaking Parts (1989), a film directed by Atom Egoyan about a video rental store customer whose obsession with a minor actor pushes her to rent every film he has a bit part in; Remote Control (1988), a science fiction film about alien brainwashing scheme that uses a message hidden in a VHS tape, in which Kevin Dillon plays the role of a video store clerk; Air Doll (2009) a Japanese film about a blow-up doll that comes to life and begins working in a video rental store; Bleeder (1999), a Nicolas Winding Refn film in which Mads Mikkelsen plays a lonely video store clerk; and Watching the Detectives (2007), a film in which Cillian Murphy plays a video store clerk who is a film buff who tries to get his customers interested in cinema.

Rental and copyright[edit]

Renting books, CDs, tapes, and movies is covered by copyright law.[37] Copyright owners sometimes put warning notices on the packaging of products such as DVDs to deter copyright infringement. In some cases, consumer rights in Europe and the US are in fact significantly broader than those described in such warnings. "[N]either the rental nor purchase of a movie carries the right to exhibit it outside of one’s home".[38] "A license is required for all public performances regardless of whether admission is charged"; as such, a person showing a rental video outside their home must pay for an exhibition license.[39]

Courts have ruled on the issue of how to define "private"; it generally includes a home or hotel room, and attendees could be family and those in your normal social circle. However, if you invite a broader range of people, such as people from your neighborhood, then the exhibition of the movie becomes a public exhibition. [40] An organization that shows a copyrighted movie on the organization's property is not considered to be a private place, even though it is a company-owned facility.[41]

Some types of video exhibition in public may fall under the Fair use exception, which "allows the use of copyrighted material in a reasonable manner without the consent of the owner" is if is being viewed for "commentary, criticism, education or research."[42]

Gallery[edit]

Top film rentals in the United States[edit]

Up until 1998[edit]

Rank[43] Title Revenue Inflation
1 Star Wars Special Edition $270,900,000 $457,300,000
2 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $228,160,000 $385,140,000

1987–1997[edit]

Rank[44] Title
1 Top Gun
2 Pretty Woman
3 Home Alone
4 The Little Mermaid
5 Ghost
6 Beauty and the Beast
7 Terminator 2: Judgment Day
8 Forrest Gump
9 The Lion King
10 Dances with Wolves

1993–1996[edit]

Rank 1993[45] 1994[46] 1995[47] 1996[48]
1 Sister Act Mrs. Doubtfire Forrest Gump Braveheart
2 Under Siege The Fugitive The Lion King Babe
3 A Few Good Men The Firm True Lies Twister
4 The Bodyguard Ace Ventura: Pet Detective The Mask Seven
5 Beauty and the Beast Jurassic Park Speed Independence Day
6 Aladdin Tombstone Dumb and Dumber The Net
7 Unforgiven Sleepless in Seattle The Shawshank Redemption Jumanji
8 Home Alone 2: Lost in New York Aladdin The Santa Clause Casino
9 Lethal Weapon 3 Barney Pulp Fiction Waterworld
10 The Last of the Mohicans Cliffhanger Legends of the Fall Toy Story

1997[edit]

Top video rentals of 1997[49][50]
Rank Title Rentals Revenue Inflation
1 Jerry Maguire 22,500,000 $60,190,000 $101,600,000
2 Liar Liar 20,910,000 $57,410,000 $96,910,000
3 A Time to Kill 18,770,000 $50,710,000 $85,600,000
4 The First Wives Club 17,820,000 $47,840,000 $80,750,000
5 Ransom 17,390,000 $46,780,000 $78,970,000
6 Phenomenon 17,260,000 $46,240,000 $78,050,000
7 Scream 16,500,000 $44,910,000 $75,810,000
8 Michael 15,820,000 $42,510,000 $71,760,000
9 The Long Kiss Goodnight 15,530,000 $41,350,000 $69,800,000
10 Sleepers 15,160,000 $41,020,000 $69,240,000

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Schmid, Von Dorina (14 February 2014). "Meine Videothek ist ein Kulturerbe – Gespräch mit dem Erfinder der ersten Videothek der Welt: Eckhard Baum (WS 2013/14)". Literaturhaus Nordhessen. Archived from the original on 30 April 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  2. ^ Steinbach, Jörg (19 September 2015). "Film-Shop feiert heute Geburtstag". Kassel Live. Archived from the original on 29 October 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  3. ^ Filmklasse Kassel: entry on Eckis Welt, Kunsthochschule Kassel
  4. ^ Khanna, Derek (27 December 2013). "A Look Back At How The Content Industry Almost Killed Blockbuster And Netflix (And The VCR)". TechCrunch. Archived from the original on 28 December 2013.
  5. ^ Jennifer Lane Burnell. "Industry History: entertainment merchants association". Entertainment Merchants Association. Archived from the original on 6 August 2011.
  6. ^ 1975 - 1979 | entertainment merchants association
  7. ^ Betamax is born, June 7, 1975
  8. ^ Thirty years ago today, Sandra Day O’Connor saved the future of video
  9. ^ A Look Back At How The Content Industry Almost Killed Blockbuster And Netflix (And The VCR)
  10. ^ What the 1984 Betamax ruling did for us all
  11. ^ Copyright Ruling Rings With Echo of Betamax
  12. ^ "Specialty Dealers Differ On Value Of Video Game Rental". Billboard. Vol. 95, no. 1. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 8 January 1983. pp. 31, 48. ISSN 0006-2510.
  13. ^ "Why You Can't Rent Games in Japan".
  14. ^ De Atley, Richard (1985-09-07). "VCRs put entertainment industry into fast-forward frenzy". The Free Lance-Star. Associated Press. pp. 12–TV. Archived from the original on 4 April 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  15. ^ Kleinfield, N. R. (1988-05-01). "A Tight Squeeze at Video Stores". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 14 April 2020. Retrieved 2019-02-08.
  16. ^ Sonasky, Steven (1986-06-10). "VCRs give cable TV firms a common enemy". Boca Raton News. Knight-Ridder Newspapers. pp. 4D. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2015.
  17. ^ Hussie, Andrew; Kenna, Eileen (1989-12-14). "Saturday Night Movies At Home". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2015-02-14. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  18. ^ Herbert, Andrew. "Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store". University of California Press, 2014, p. 17-18.
  19. ^ a b Stebbins, Samuel; Comen, Evan (28 December 2017). "America's 24 dying industries include sound studios, textiles, newspapers". USA Today. Archived from the original on 30 April 2020. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  20. ^ Robinson, Ragan (24 September 2017). "Video stores still making a go at attracting business (answer poll)". Gaston Gazette. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  21. ^ Dawson, Jennifer (23 April 2006). "The incredible shrinking video stores!". Houston Business Journal. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  22. ^ Billboard 8. July 2000
  23. ^ Brigg, James. "Video stores still 'alive and well' in Indy". The Indianapolis Star. Archived from the original on 31 December 2015. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  24. ^ Bennett, Hugh (9 January 2018). "DEG Releases Year-End 2017 Home Entertainment Report". Hugh's News. Archived from the original on 21 March 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  25. ^ Loheswar, R. (14 June 2020). "After over three decades, Speedy Videos closing all stores in Malaysia permanently". The Malay Mail. Archived from the original on 16 June 2020. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  26. ^ Daim, Nuradzimmah (14 June 2020). "Speedy Video bids adieu, all stores to close". New Straits Times. Archived from the original on 14 June 2020. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  27. ^ "Oz's Video Ezy hits new Asian markets". Variety. 29 August 2000. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  28. ^ "INTERNATIONAL INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ALLIANCE 2008 SPECIAL 301 REPORT - MALAYSIA" (PDF). Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  29. ^ "All Family Video Stores Closing | Family Video".
  30. ^ a b c d Wren, Clay (14 May 2021). "Video stores aren't dead because of Film is Truth". www.westernfrontonline.com. The Front. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  31. ^ Duggan, Joe (17 December 2021). "Last call for what's likely Nebraska's last video store". https://flatwaterfreepress.org. Flatwater Free Press. Retrieved 21 September 2022. {{cite web}}: External link in |website= (help)
  32. ^ a b Souter, Collin (12 February 2021). "Farewell to the Video Store". www.rogerebert.com. Roger Ebert. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  33. ^ a b c McGillivray, Kate (20 October 2018). "The Secret Resilience of Toronto's Video Stores". www.cbc.ca/news. CBC. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  34. ^ a b Trapunski, Richard (3 July 2021). "Inside one of Toronto's last video stores". https://nowtoronto.com. Now. Retrieved 22 September 2022. {{cite web}}: External link in |website= (help)
  35. ^ Unglesbee, Ben (17 December 2020). "An existential moment for the last video store chain". www.retaildive.com/news. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  36. ^ a b Brody, Richard (2 October 2015). "The Video Store as Film School". www.newyorker.com. New Yorker. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  37. ^ "About Copyright Law". Motion Picture Licensing Corporation. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  38. ^ "Copyright Compliance and Public Performances". www.swank.com/. Swank. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  39. ^ "Copyright Compliance and Public Performances". www.swank.com/. Swank. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  40. ^ "Public or Private Audience". legalbeagle.com. Legal Beagle. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  41. ^ "Copyright Compliance and Public Performances". www.swank.com/. Swank. Retrieved 22 September 2022.
  42. ^ "Fair Use Exception". legalbeagle.com. Legal Beagle. Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  43. ^ "Most Rented Video". The Guinness Book of Records 1999. Guinness World Records. 1998. p. 215. ISBN 978-0-85112-070-6.
  44. ^ Famighetti, Robert (1998). "Most Popular Movie Videos: All Time Top 10 Rentals". The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1999. World Almanac Books. p. 178. ISBN 978-0-88687-832-0. Source: Alexander & Associates/Video Flash, New York, NY (...) Rented Mar. 1, 1987-Dec. 30, 1997
  45. ^ Famighetti, Robert, ed. (1994). "Most Popular Movie Videos, 1993". The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1995. World Almanac Books. p. 302.
  46. ^ Famighetti, Robert, ed. (1995). "Most Popular Movie Videos, 1994". The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1996. World Almanac Books. p. 250.
  47. ^ "Most Popular Movie Videos". The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1997. World Almanac Books. 1996. p. 284. ISBN 9780886878016.
  48. ^ Famighetti, Robert (1997). "Most Popular Movie Videos". The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1998. World Almanac Books. p. 250. ISBN 0886878217.
  49. ^ Alsop, Ronald J. (1998). "Home Video's Greatest Hits". The Wall Street Journal Almanac: 1999. New York City: Ballantine Books: 681. ISBN 9780345411020. Source: Paul Kagan Associates, Inc.
  50. ^ "VidTrac's Top 100 Renting Video Titles for 1997". Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA). Archived from the original on June 13, 1998. Retrieved 9 November 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Greenberg, Joshua M. From Betamax to Blockbuster: Video Stores and the Invention of Movies on Video. MIT Press, 2010.
  • Herbert, Daniel. Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2014.
  • Roston, Tom. I Lost It at the Video Store: A Filmmakers' Oral History of a Vanished Era. Critical Press, 2015.