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New forms of video rental take growing market share

October 14, 2010

Despite the availability of alternate movie rentals and viewing options, local video rental shops are holding steady for now, but look forward to a bleak future.

Econofoods video rental faces the possibility of being terminated during a re-model of the store potentially happening in December, said Customer Services and Video Rental Manager Stacy Martin.

Martin said that only four in-store video rentals are left in the Nash Finch chain of grocery stores — which includes Econofoods and Family Fresh. Martin added that Econofoods has been considering discontinuing its video rental for several years.

The number of options for video rental for college students and members of the community has increased dramatically in the digital age. Over the summer, River Falls gained two more movie kiosks including one by Holiday on the corner of Cascade Avenue and Spring Street, a Blockbuster Express outside of Shopko in addition to the Redbox outside of Walgreens that is now double sized.

Renters also have the option to subscribe to Netflix and receive their movies in the mail or stream instantly online. Other companies, like Hulu, offer online streaming for free. While Hulu is legal, video pirating and illegal online viewing are also ways for students for watch movies. A free way to view movies on campus is through the university library.

During the summer months when business was slow, Econofoods lowered their rental price from $1.49 to 88 cents. Martin said that they were unable to cover their costs of purchasing DVDs at that price and reinstated their higher price at the beginning of October.

During the Summer, Econofoods saw as low as $30 worth of video rentals a day, but more recently college student business has increased and saw almost $400 worth of movie rentals near homecoming. Martin noted that the number of rentals relies heavily on weather and events.

Blockbuster — once an in-store movie rental giant — filed for bankruptcy in September after being in business since 1985. Meanwhile, Redbox celebrated its one-billionth movie rented on Sept. 5 after being in operation for only eight years.

“I [rented from] Mr. Movies once, and the price for the quality wasn’t worth it to me,” said UW-River Falls student Patrick Jones, who worked for three years at his hometown video rental store, Video Vault in Milltown, Minn.

Instead, Jones said he uses Redbox and watches Hulu because it’s convenient and cheaper.

Owner of Mr. Movies, Laurie Henn, said that since they moved locations to be closer to the campus on Main Street that they have had more business from college students.  Previously, she said students mostly came into the store if they were looking for a specific film for class or a vintage film that they couldn’t find elsewhere. Henn said now more students come by to check out new releases and browse.

Henn said that while Redbox and Netflix aren’t great for her business, Mr. Movies employs local people who are available to help customers when they have a problem with a DVD, rather than calling in to an 800 number to get an answering machine.

Henn said that she doesn’t see the local movie rental business fading away in the near future, but several years from now it’s unclear. She said that it will be sad when people choose to stay in their houses and only connect through the internet or by mail rather than going outside into the world.