Last year, the long-struggling Blockbuster declared bankruptcy. Part of its post-Chapter 11 survival strategy involves closing down many of its brick-and-mortar outlets, which inevitably includes some close to home: Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue location recently announced, through storefront signage, that it will shutter by the end of the month, Here’s Park Slope reported. It follows on the heels of Hollywood Video a few blocks north, which closed, like, forever ago.
Before we start filing our eulogies for the video store (yes, even the corporate video store), let’s remember that Park Slope still boasts at least four independent video stores—Video Gallery and Reel Life South on the south side, Get Reel and Video Forum on the north—which is about four more than most other neighborhoods in Brooklyn (and the rest of America). We called up a few to ask how they have managed to keep afloat when, like the big chains, they have to compete too against Netflix, YouTube, VoD, Facebook, texting and sexting.
“Our overhead is significantly lower” than Blockbuster’s, Joe Martin, owner of Reel Life South, which opened in 1997, told us. “But moreover I think our video store—I started the video store, I own the video store—it’s more a labor of love.”
“We have some really loyal customers, and certainly we’ve lost a lot, just by Netflix, but we definitely do have a loyal customer base,” he continued. “People with a well-rounded view of movies tend to appreciate us a little more.”
“I think it has to do with a neighborhood loyalty,” Sean O’Brien, a clerk at Video Forum, told us. “A lot of local people in the neighborhood want to shop locally instead of at big chains, so we have a loyal clientele.” He added that though the business saw a drop off after Netflix Instant caught on, the store still functions, for many of its customers, as a supplement to that service. “We have a staff here that’s knowledgeable and friendly,” he said. “I guess it’s just the friendly staff.”