DVD kills a video starby Sanden Totten, Minnesota Public Radio
In a couple of weeks one of the biggest movie archives in the Twin Cities will disappear. It's not a museum or even a public library. It's a video store. Discount Video in Uptown Minneapolis specializes in rare and classic movies. Some local film fans are trying to work out what they'll do to fill the vacuum.
Minneapolis, Minn. — At 2566 Hennepin Avenue it feels like Christmas. Customers are scanning through row after row of movies: old classics and new hits, well known titles and obscure gems. Others are checking out with their arms full of VHS tapes.
Everything at the store is for sale and film buffs are eager to take advantage of the deal.
"I got Charlie Chaplin's 'The Great Dictator' and 'Auntie Mame,'" beams Renee Kvasnik of Minneapolis. "These are just historic movies."
Discount Video is a movie lover's video store. The store has customers from all over the Twin Cities and some from as far as Eau Claire, Wisconsin. You can browse through an extensive selection of Asian action films or pick up a campy sci-fi flick from the Horror Classics aisle. Vintage movie posters decorate the walls. Some boxes sport little notes urging customers to take a chance on a unfamiliar title.
The store got its start back in 1981 when the price of renting a VHS tape was $12. A typical VCR could cost 3000 bucks and most video stores carried less than 150 films. Over the years the store grew. Eventually it reached a catalog of 17,000 titles, almost all of them on VHS.
Chuck Hanson, co-owner of Discount Video says he regrets having to sell off his prized catalog.
"Actually what we are is a library of history," Hanson explains. "What you're losing is really an ability to walk in and literally get, not anything, but anything that's worth watching."
Hanson says the store just can't make money anymore. He doesn't blame the big chains. He recognizes that the future of movie rentals is moving to the internet. Online services like Netflix send DVDs directly to customers homes. In 2005, the company reported a 60 percent increase in subscribers, 2.4 million in total. Even the big chain stores are feeling the pinch.
Jane Minton is Director of IFP Minneapolis St Paul, which promotes independent film in Minnesota. She says online services have their place, but they can't recreate the magic of a brick and mortar shop.
"A place like Discount Video, they know their movies," says Minton. "They'll make recommendations for you and kinda steer you where you probably don't know you wanted to go."
Minton says film makers who worked with the IFP used the store's catalog to research obscure directors or different genres of films. When the store finally closes its doors, many of these movies will simply become unavailable. That's because on-line distributors deal exclusively in DVDs.
Discount Video co-owner Lou Bohl says even if the movie companies released 150 films a week, it could take 10 years before the DVD catalog catches up with what's available now on VHS.
Bohl worries America is losing touch with its cultural history.
"I think it's going to be the Jay Leno change," says Bohl. "When he goes out on the street with his microphone, people are very well aware of their contemporary entertainment icons. But if you go beyond a 4 year period, they don't seem to have the memory. It's kind of a moving bubble."
Bohl says the problem is over-saturation. He says movie companies push so many new films customers quickly lose interest in anything over a week old. He feels the end result is people just aren't as enamored with the home viewing experience as they once were.
"25 years ago if you were at a singles bar and walked up to a young lady and said, 'I have a VCR, how about we go over to my place and watch Citizen Kane?' They would be like, 'You do?!'" Bohl recalls. "Now if you walked up to someone like that they'd think you were out of your mind."
Bohl plans to keep the store open as long as possible. Both he and Hanson are sad to see their collection break apart. But as Hanson jokes, they like to think each movies is being adopted into a nice loving home.
- Morning Edition, 03/14/2006, 8:25 a.m.