Netflix is killing the Video Store

Just as video killed the radio star, now Netflix is killing the video store. And I most certainly do not feel fine about this.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Netflix in some ways. I recently enrolled in their “program” and have been immersed in a steady stream of semi-current movies. In the evenings when I run out of tasks to do (which happens frequently) and am too tired to read a book, I’ll frequently find myself scrolling through their selection of films, trying to decide whether I feel more like watching Doogie Howser (aka Neil Patrick Harris) eat shrooms and drive around the South in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay or witness the latest “terrible” comic book adaptation in The Last Airbender. Shudder.

It’s cheap (around $8 a month) and it’s easy as pie. In fact I was so complacent in my video watching that I almost missed a short article in the Globe and Mail one weekend announcing the imminent closure of Videomatica – a signature video dealer in Kits. Videomatic was known far and wide as the place to go to get the movies you couldn’t find anywhere else. Their selection was extensive – so extensive in fact – that apparently a decent portion of their collection will likely be preserved – hopefully by Herman Wosk (of the Wosk Centre) simply because it can’t really be replicated anywhere else. It was harder to miss a recent article that game out today in the Vancouver Sun proclaiming the close 146 Blockbuster stores across the country. The demise of both Blockbuster and Videomatica tell a sad story of the gradual demise of the video store.

I have my own neighbourhood version of Videomatica. It’s called Black Dog Video. There are many things that endear Black Dog Video to me. Here are some of the reasons:

1. The dudes that work their are chill, helpful and “educated” in the subject of good films

2. Their mascot is a black dog

3. They publish a wicked by-monthly newsletter that gives me great tips for what I should be watching and makes me chuckle out loud about what I shouldn’t be watching.

4. You get paw prints each time you rent a movie

5. They are dog friendly and even have tasty treats for your mutt should you bring them into the store

6. Their selection is extensive. They carry all sorts of terrific foreign films that you’d never see at a glitzed up Blockbuster

7. Their shop is close by to Vera’s burgers and the Liquor Store – sort of a one stop shop for a movie night

8. If you have ridiculous late fees you may find (some of them) forgiven

9. They aren’t a chain (well, they have 2 locations so they sort of are, but you know what I mean)

10. They are known far and wide in the community.

Black Dog, like hundreds of other small video stores around the province, is in danger of going out of business in the coming years thanks to the growing power and consumer buy in of content-on-demand being led by companies like Netflix. They have a difficult time competing, both in price and convenience. If they do disappear, they are likely to leave a big gap in our communities and take with them the opportunity to discover a film we might never had considered searching for or might never have found without a friendly recommendation from a staff member.

This could be a real tragedy, both for Black Dog community lovers and film buffs. While the selection of Netflix is likely to continue to expand and be augmented by other on-demand sites, there’s something to be said about the corporeal existence the old way of picking a film. Like the movie theatres, there is something special about going to the movie store, browsing the titles and heading home in anticipation that would be missing by just punching a bunch of buttons. I guess we’ll soon see whether this “certain special something” is enough to compete with cheaper prices and more convenience. I hope so, but I suspect not.