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» Film-Tech Forum   » Community   » The Afterlife   » Alamo Drafthouse Has a Plan to Bring Back the Video Store, VCR Optional

Author Topic: Alamo Drafthouse Has a Plan to Bring Back the Video Store, VCR Optional
Harold Hallikainen
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 636
From: Denver, CO, USA
Registered: Aug 2009

 - posted 12-20-2017 12:27 AM      Profile for Harold Hallikainen   Author's Homepage   Email Harold Hallikainen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post

At a time when the movie theater business is struggling to make it, the Alamo Drafthouse chain has thrived by doing things a little differently. Now, it’s trying to bring back the video store. Not only will it offer DVDs, Blu-rays, and VHS, but if you need a VCR it’ll rent you one of those, too.

It’s been 20 years since the first Alamo Drafthouse opened in Austin, Texas, and the chain has been expanding more than ever in the age of Netflix. It has 22 locations today. Most theater chains are having trouble reaping profits from standard concessions and blockbusters you can get anywhere, but Alamo has offered creative dining, rare repertory films, thoughtful programming, and festivals that make people want to get out of the house. The idea for Video Vortex is to bring that same experience to the home theater.

On Monday, Alamo announced that its upcoming location in Raleigh will also house the city’s “newest (and only) video rental store.” When theater-goers come check out a flick and have a meal, they’ll be able to peruse a catalog of 30,000 titles to take home with them. Alamo claims it’ll be one of the largest video archives on the planet. VCRs will be available for rent and HDMI to RCA adapters will be free of charge.

Alamo is betting on the rarity of its collection to pique customers’ interest. It’s hard to overstate what a massive success the VHS-era was. The format held strong for decades, and it didn’t have much competition. There are still plenty of films that never received a digital release, and Alamo’s collected a ton of them. A study in 2016 found that only 46 percent of consumers have bought or rented a digital video. Compare that to 78 percent who said they’d bought or rented a VHS.

Video Vortex started years ago at Alamo as a recurring screening program that focused on straight-to-video movies. Its curator, Joe Ziemba, will continue to oversee the selection for its brick and mortar spin-off. “It gives me hope for humanity to see VIDEO VORTEX grow from a series at the Alamo to an actual video store,” Ziemba said in the announcement. “VHS is still the only way to see hundreds of forgotten genre movies.” He hopes that the Raleigh pilot will be successful enough to expand Video Vortex into a full-scale chain.

Video store nostalgia is certainly a thing these days. It was fun to go to a store, spend half an hour picking up boxes with some wild art, talking to a clerk, choosing one thing, and being stuck with it when you get home. Streaming services simultaneously offer too much, and too little selection. I spend a lot of time scrolling through horrible interfaces looking for a movie, changing my mind, starting something else, and finishing nothing. A video store wouldn’t replace streaming, but it’d be fun to visit the store when I go to the theater and find a hidden gem from a selection that wasn’t curated by Netflix, Amazon, or Disney’s partnership deals.

The biggest concern I’d have is late fees. Late fees killed the video store. Redbox found success by keeping the fees to a minimum and Netflix buried them through a subscription model. Alamo, however, isn’t announcing its price model at the moment. It’s only saying that “visitors can return rentals on their next trip to Alamo Drafthouse, or they’ll have the option of mailing DVDs and Blu-rays back to the shop with a return envelope.” Late fees seem like an inevitable necessity to keep the store stocked, but if Alamo plays its cards right, the store might not even need to reap big profits. Having a method to keep people coming back to the theater on a weekly basis could function as a loss leader for the big new releases, food, and booze.

The SNES Classic has been outselling next-gen systems, and people got excited over a new release of an old Nokia dumbphone. It might sound a little crazy that people would lug home a VCR and adjust the tracking when they could just fire up Netflix, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it works.

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Frank Cox
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1750
From: Melville Saskatchewan Canada
Registered: Apr 2011

 - posted 12-20-2017 12:58 AM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There's nothing particularly new in that. About 20 years back, the theatre in Esterhazy (about 50 miles from here) had a video rental store in the lobby.

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Aaron Garman
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1453
From: Notre Dame du Lac, Indiana USA
Registered: Mar 2003

 - posted 12-20-2017 06:48 AM      Profile for Aaron Garman   Email Aaron Garman   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If they rent LaserDiscs, I might be interested!


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Leo Enticknap
Film God

Posts: 6632
From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000

 - posted 12-20-2017 11:16 AM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Is anyone still making VHS VCRs and tapes?

Admittedly, the quantity of used ones in circulation is so vast that Alamo Drafthouse could stock up retro rental stores in all of their theaters, just by going on an Ebay spree. But, rotting belts and bad servos in the VCRs, sticky shed on the tapes, etc. etc. etc.?

If their plan involves used hardware and tapes, I hope that at the very least, they've hired a really good VCR tech to keep the machines alive, and have factored on buying at least one parts donor machine for every one they figure on renting out.

This is not like "vinyl revival" phonograph records, the technology for which is relatively mechanically and electronically simple, and which is now being mass-manufactured again. VHS hardware and software isn't, and AFAIK, isn't anymore.

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David Stambaugh
Film God

Posts: 4007
From: Eugene, Oregon
Registered: Jan 2002

 - posted 12-20-2017 07:51 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Visit any Goodwill store that offers consumer electronics and you’ll see dozens of working VHS machines for cheap.

40 years after the first VHS video cassette recorder rolled off the production line, the last known company making the devices is ceasing production. According to Japanese newspaper Nikkei, Funai Electric, a Japanese consumer electronics company, will give up on the format by the end of the July (2016) after 30 years of production.

Declining sales, plus a difficulty in obtaining the necessary parts, prompted Funai Electric to cease production. While the Funai brand might not be well-known in the west, the company sold VCRs under the more familiar Sanyo brand in China and North America.

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Sam Graham
AKA: "The Evil Sam Graham". Wackiness ensues.

Posts: 1293
From: Waukee, IA
Registered: Dec 2004

 - posted 12-20-2017 11:01 PM      Profile for Sam Graham   Author's Homepage   Email Sam Graham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Fridley Theatres had a chain of video rental stores called The Video Warehouse. One of them was located in Ankeny’s Paramount 5, and you had to walk through the store to get to at least one of the auditoriums.

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