Question: Would You Be Sad If Video Rental Stores Vanished?

There's one thing that this summer has proven: People still love going to the movies. Movie grosses are actually up this year from last year, to $4.25 billion from $4.2 billion last year. And while studio executives are probably pleased with this development, one thing that hasn't been as encouraging is the DVD market. While DVDs used to account for a huge percentage of a film's revenue, that percentage already plateaued and is being supplanted by a number of other competing forces. The format itself is under attack, as Video-on-Demand and DVRs continue to take hold in American households.

One of the signs of the times has been the struggle of brick-and-mortar stores to stay competitive. With Netflix and Redbox offering consumers a cheap and easy way to get movies, it's difficult for companies who are paying massive overhead renting physical space to continue to operate profitably. Last week we reported on how Blockbuster might be closing 960 of its stores, which comprise 20% of its 4,400 outlets. Anecdotally, I've seen three separate Hollywood Videos close in my area, which was actually kind of sad, as I used to enjoy browsing through the endless aisles of DVDs/Blu-Rays and chatting with the occasionally knowledgeable staff member. While video rental stores may never entirely go away, we are certainly witnessing an industry in the midst of a sea change, and in 5-10 years, the video rental store landscape will probably look completely different than it does today. Would you be sad if video rental stores vanished?

This week, our colleagues over at the Totally Rad Show, (who recently re-launched with a completely new design and brand new graphics), discussed this exact issue. In their most recent episode, they wax nostalgic about VHS (who among us DIDN'T love storing 8 hours of footage on a single cassette tape?) and Dan Trachtenberg concludes that while there were positive aspects of the video store experience, a lot of what people are holding onto when it comes to the demise of video stores is actually some romanticized notion of what the rental experience was like, rather than reality.

So guys, what do you think? What has been your experience at video rental stores? Have you found them an enjoyable place to hang out and chat about movies? Or have they only served a utilitarian function for you to get your movie and then get the hell out? More importantly, if video stores went away, would you miss them?

[Photo by Flickr user savemejebus]