Op-Ed: Should movie-rental stores make a comeback?

Posted Jan 22, 2014 by Paula Kirman
When Blockbuster announced it was closing all of its stores last fall, and proceeded to do so, many saw this as the end of an era.
File photo of Toronto s Videoflicks store
File photo of Toronto's Videoflicks store
Blockbuster was the biggest chain of brick-and-mortar movie and game rental shops, and its closure meant that online services (most notably Netflix) were the wave of the future.
However, there are still a few physical DVD rental places around in North America. Many of these places are niche, specializing in alternative movies or adult entertainment, for example. Others are able to piggyback onto the success of other businesses in the immediate vicinity and by being creative in how they do business, like Family Video.
In the city where I live, there are one or two niche DVD rental places of which I am aware. One recently closed. As I, like many others, hoarded ultra-inexpensive copies of movies they were clearing out, I silently lamented the closure of yet another video store.
Being a Netflix subscriber, I am far from innocent. Netflix provides convenience, selection, and the opportunity to network with other users for advice and recommendations. However, there was something appealing about walking around in Blockbuster, looking at all of the different DVD covers, that online renting and viewing cannot replicate. I made many discoveries checking out the new releases in a variety of movie genres, picking up DVD covers and reading their descriptions.
Sadly, these are reminiscences of a bygone era. Physical DVD rental shops cannot compete with the "pay one price and view unlimited movies" set up of Netflix — at least, not in such a way that would make a profit. There would have to be something value added, such as a cafe where one could watch a movie on a personal device while enjoying a coffee or snack.
As for me, if I want to browse movies in a physical location apart from home, there's always the public library.