LIMA — Although over the last decade the entertainment business has become more digitized, the DVD industry remains a niche in the Lima region due to the rental experience, according to Bill Mohler, family video regional vice president.
Over the last decade, DVD rental companies have closed across the country.
Family Video is the only DVD rental store that remains in the Lima area with two locations in Lima on Cable and Cole Streets and one in Wapakoneta. As of 2018, Family Video has approximately 700 locations with an inventory of close to 10,000 DVDs.
When the first store opened in 1978, it was the first movie rental company in the country. Now 40 years later, as companies have competed with the advent of online streaming and DVD disc rental kiosks, the company is still profitable.
“When other rental businesses have gone out of business people assume that there is something wrong with the business,” said Mohler. “They assume that companies went out of business because of streaming, but that’s only part of it. Physical media is still incredibly popular which is evident by the number of video stores, kiosks, Red Boxes, Walmarts or any other place that sells media.”
Besides the fact that media is still popular among consumers, Mohler said one of the main reasons Family Video has stayed in business as long as it has is because consumers still prefer what he calls the “rental experience.”
“The rental experience is really what people are looking for more than the movie,” said Mohler. “The rental experience is an opportunity to go to a place where you enjoy and wandering around. For us the video stores are still an event and it’s still an experience for the customer on a Friday night when they need something to do.”
Family Video is not the only place in Lima where consumers can enjoy the “rental experience.”
The Lima Public Library on 650 W. Market St. has a selection of over 2,000 free new and old DVDs rentals for library card holders.
“We pretty much offer all genres from Christian movies, dramas, comedies, documentaries, blockbusters and independent movies,” said Faith Barrow, Lima Public Library librarian. “We try to keep a diverse collection.”
From August 2017-2018 the Lima Public Library branches had a circulation of 133,343 DVDs, according to Barrow.
“We definitely get a lot of requests for DVDS,” said Barrow. “People in the community are definitely aware that we offer these services. That helps in regards to driving requests as well as circulation numbers.”
Despite the fact that there are consumers who still enjoy the “rental experience,” in 2018 electronic rental sales are $320 million above DVD rentals in the United States, according to Statista.com.
“It would be crazy to say that the online streaming business doesn’t impact the influx of customers, because it does,” said Mohler. “It’s not the heydays of the ‘90s or the early 2000s when it was the only element out there, but at the same time consumer’s demands have increased.”
Despite the decline in rental sales the company has not raised its prices. The company still offers specials like free kid movies, $1 movies, two movies for a $1, and new releases for $2.99. Also grade school, high school and college students can get free movies for A’s they receive on their report cards.
“We have not adjusted our prices to try to compete because streaming is actually more expensive,” said Mohler.
Although online streaming has become an option for consumers who want to watch television shows or movies, Mohler said there are consumers who still prefer DVDs because its affordable and has better quality.
“All you have to do is ask people how well their internet is,” said Mohler. “For some people it’s just not affordable to get internet services they need to have a good experience, so we continue to be the affordable way to watch movies.”
Netflix, an online entertainment streaming business with over 130 million subscribers, is one of the online streaming services that Mohler said is not affordable for all consumers. Netflix subscriptions range from $7.99 for the basic plan to $13.99 for the premium plan.
“Netflix is available, but it does not have the newest movies,” said Mohler. “Netflix is great for the older stuff but they do not have the newest movies and there’s an expense that goes along with it. Online streaming services are not our competitors. Our competitor is actually the cable company because it’s more common in American homes.”
To accommodate the needs of consumers who cannot afford Netflix, the Lima Public Library branches rents out Rokus, digital media players. For two weeks, library card holders can watch Netflix on the device for free through the library’s account.
The library also offers library card holders access to Hoopla, a digital streaming website. Through the library’s account library card holders can watch free movies and listen to digital albums.
“Everything that we have is completely free,” said Barrow. “You can come in and see a movie that has recently been released all for free.”
Although there are places like the library that offer both physical and digital entertainment, Family Video has ultimately thrived because of its involved in the community, according to Mohler.
Every winter the business gives away turkeys to less fortunate families and every April it raises over $1 million for the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
“I think that we have always tried to be the neighbor and create value and experience and if there is anything that has kept us around this long is the fact that we have built relationships with our communities.”
Mohler admits that he is unsure of the direction of the video industry but is confident that Family Video will continue to thrive.
“Who knows what the future of video will be, but there will always be video stores around,” said Mohler. “There will always be customers who want to come in to enjoy that ‘rental experience’.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews