Posted Thu Jan 7, 2021 at 04:43 AM PST by Matthew Hartman
In an announcement released yesterday to email subscribers and on the Family Video Website and social media accounts, Keith Hoogland has announced the end of an era. You can read the letter here.
As people moved to the convenience of online streaming platforms to get their movie fixes, the video rental shop business model steadily disappeared. Except for Family Video. Where the dominoes fell fast for chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video (where I slung videos from 2008-2010 in Ann Arbor, Michigan) the small spunky upstart managed the impossible - it hung on. Understanding rural areas didn't get the same fast dedicated internet speeds needed for a quality streaming experience, the company adjusted its business model to keep to small towns and cities. But just because they catered to the needs of a smaller local audience, didn't mean they sidestepped new format advancements or tastes.
Where my in-laws live there's a Family Video and while renting something never made sense for how short our visits usually are (and I have vastly different tastes in movies), I always liked to drop in and look around. It was a delightful dip through nostalgic memories complete with raiding the Previously Viewed titles for great deals. I also loved they had a dedicated Criterion Collection section - something I hadn't seen since my Hollywood Video days. Sadly, I won't get to do that again. As COVID-19 swept across the country it knocked out their foot traffic and with precious few new releases coming to disc, they couldn't survive. Lasting over 10 years longer than the likes of Movie Gallery, Blockbuster, or Hollywood Video, Family Video's end effectively closes the last chapter of an era where people actually left their homes to find a new movie to watch for the weekend.
While this doesn't come as much of a consultation, the Family Video website will live on. In recent years they've become a great resource for collectors offering solid deals on previously viewed discs but also great sales from niche and boutique studios. I personally take advantage of their Arrow, Criterion, and most recently their Blue Underground sale. Their regular 50% off Arrow Video sale alone has helped me save a ton while adding some great titles to my collection that I otherwise would have waited on or passed altogether.
So far, I haven't seen any details for closing sales and deals on the store level - if you live near one let us know! One of the worst parts of helping my Hollywood Video close and then visiting subsequent Blockbuster locations was picking through the bones of the shops for titles. But at the same time, I felt like I was preserving a part of a larger collection. I still have several of my old Hollywood Video titles with clunky thick plastic cases and genre stickers covering up part of the spines. Even as I've replaced those titles with Blu-ray or even 4K UHD, I haven't had the heart to let those old memories go. If you're lucky to live near one of these shops that will be closing its doors, see if you can't mask up and make a final visit.
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