What do you love / hate about movie rental shops / websites?
January 28, 2004 12:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm considering opening a DVD store. I'd like your opinions on what you love/hate about movie rental shops/web sites. [more inside]

I've been considering doing this for a few years now and recent events are making me take it more seriously. For 5 years I ran Art & Trash Video in Toronto and would like to open something similar but for DVD only.

I'm asking as broadly as possible: what do you hate/love about your local (or netflix or greencine if you use them) and what would you change?

What would the world's greatest movie rental place do differently?
posted by dobbs to Work & Money (51 answers total)
Shorter queues on saturday evenings.
Maybe machine dispensers on more popular films to cut back queues.
Don't dick people on late returns.
Decent world cinema section - one that is kept up to date.
Perhaps make some review material available independent of the film distributors.
Knowledgeable staff would be good, though I appreciate this is difficult.
Member database that recommends films based on previous selections?
Sell fresh popcorn.
posted by biffa at 12:44 PM on January 28, 2004

I want a local Netflix, basically. I'd prefer to pay a membership fee up front as a deposit and then pay a per movie fee of about $4. $20 a month for Netflix isn't quite worth it given mailing delays, especially when the weather gets nice. I don't care so much about matched recommendations as I do about selection, availability and a simple website.
posted by machaus at 12:55 PM on January 28, 2004

I'd suggest a sales section right along side the rentals -- I'm picturing "Movie X" for sale right next to the copy (or little tag to take to the counter or whatever) for rent. Or maybe just the stack for sale, with a little chip to take up for a rental hanging below it. (Does that make sense?)

Let people rent to buy, too -- similar to Blockbuster's "Rent it - like it -buy it" deal.
posted by me3dia at 1:01 PM on January 28, 2004

I buy almost all my new release movies at video stores now. Yeah, you get burned occasionally by other renters' shoddy treatment, but the price generally can't be beat.

Memberships are a great idea.

Having all your content online, and reservable online (so long as it's clear that an unpicked-up online reservation will cost your charge card $1, or whatever) would be hype as well.

Too bad you're in Toronto, dobbs. I'd partner with you on this.
posted by blueshammer at 1:10 PM on January 28, 2004

An internet-enabled PC or two--maybe a big bank of Citrix/WYSE thin clients with monitors (and a printer?) as they come pretty cheap on eBay--would be nice so customers could look up potential purchases on Rotten Tomatoes or that weird Christian movie-hating site, as they prefer.
posted by littlegreenlights at 1:13 PM on January 28, 2004

As is the case with most businesses, you've got to come up with a hook: you have to be better than, cheaper than, easier than or different from the others. Personally, I'm happy to pay a bit more to a store I like. I like all the Internet suggestions, I'd love to be able to check if something's in and reserve it online. And one of the only things I like about Blockbuster is their "rent it-like it-buy it" thing.

One thing that drives me nuts is poorly-organized stock, both in terms of keeping things in alphabetical order and in terms of organizing things by genre. I'd rather see fewer genre-based sections in a well-organized store than have to check in four different places to find the movie I want because the store/maufacturer couldn't decide if it was horror, sci-fi, fantasy or mystery.

I like the way our local store runs things: they rent all movies for at least five days, but give you a dollar credit if you return it before 11PM the next day (in other words, a nominal late fee is built into the price, but you get it back if you return the movie, and you're not being charged ridiculous amounts of late charges).

More obscure movies! More old movies (60's-70's in particular)! If there's one thing I find lacking in most stores (and one thing I love about Netflix) it's a lack of obscure and/or older films.

Make an effort to know your customers and find out what they want - I lived near a video store once where I became chatting-friends with most of the staff. They were knowledgeable and knew what I liked, and made more than one recommendation that I'd never have seen otherwise. And come up with some kind of customer reward program.

Check your stock regularly - there's nothing more annoying than getting your movie home only to find that the disc is scratched or damaged.

And NO PAN AND SCAN (make a big sign explaining why P&S is an evil scourge that will be wiped from the planet come the revolution)! Or at very least, stock widescreen preferentially and make sure things are clearly labeled (I hate nothing more than thinking I've rented the real (AKA widescreen) film only to find it's the mucked-about fake version (AKA pan and scan). (okay...that's just my pet peeve)
posted by biscotti at 1:20 PM on January 28, 2004

The video stores I have loved the best have had knowledgeable staff who were always there with a recommendation. It seems like you have this aspect in the bag. Other things I've liked [as a non-zealot fan, I like movies but I don't loooooooove them] are occasional discounts [4 for the price of five, two for one on tuesdays, 99 cent documentaries] as well as stuff I can't find elsewhere. Good documentaries, weird culty stuff, *every* title by good directors instead of just the popular ones, and maybe some rotating stock. Here in Vermont the country store we go to has only about 50 movies but they must be on some distribution network that freshens them up every few weeks because there's always new and good stuff there. I also like "employee picks" shelves because sometimes I don't want to look at all the comedies alphabetically again, I just want to look at a random assortment of titles. I pick up more stuff from employee picks shelves often than from the rest of the stock combined. And yeah, if there was a way to maintain a netflix-like suggestion database that would say "oh, you liked this this and this, try this" I'd use it.
posted by jessamyn at 1:41 PM on January 28, 2004

Waterloo Video in Austin (one of my favorite rental places) lets people write reviews of the movies they rent and if they're particularly witty, they'll tape them to the boxes. They also have visiting artists sign their movies (I still regret that I never stole Parker Posey's autograph).

They're also a "no bullshit" video place. They'll tell you if a movie sucks (without getting all "elitist" on you...and only if you ask) and you can almost always haggle with them on the "late" fee.
posted by ColdChef at 1:43 PM on January 28, 2004

How about this -- OK, this is a great idea that I'm giving you free, and I swear it will make you the most popular guy in town:

Get those bar code guns from Target. (Or get your own.) Leave the UPC symbol on the DVD box unmolested. Let users scan the movie they're interested in, and then have a database for all your movies that includes content from certain places. Maybe it's the local paper, if you like Pevere; maybe it's simple Rotten Tomatoes/Metacritic tabular data; whatever. But whatever data it is, you port it out to the nearest monitor. Maybe you have a small space and there's just one TV beside the counter; maybe there are multiple monitors and you set up the RF system to know which monitor is closest to the user; whatever. But then you display the info onscreen for 30 seconds, or 60 seconds, or until someone else scans something. When the monitor is not displaying specific data, it could be playing a standard movie-store "rent me!" reel, or could just be cycling through the pages.

People would love this. And it could tie into the internet back-end.
posted by blueshammer at 1:45 PM on January 28, 2004

Here's something that drives me crazy whenever I go into one of the giant chains:

300 (unrented) copies of Master Of Disguise, one (never available) copy of This Is Spinal Tap.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:46 PM on January 28, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks folks. Please keep 'em coming.

The shop would mostly be a specialized or alternative shop, carrying a large amount of foreign (Art & Trash had 10k+ films from 57 countries), art, classics, etc.

I'm not familiar with Blockbuster's "rent it buy it" plan. Could someone sum that one up for me?

What I was thinking is that prior to a title coming out, people could prepay to purchase it. Then, after 3 weeks they could have the title at a discount (say, $5 under cost). I'd get to rent more copies for 3 weeks than I otherwise would buy and they'd get it pretty quick at a good price.

re: "local netflix"... that's an idea I was considering. Having a tiered membership.

a) just like a regular store. membership is free. rentals are a fixed cost/return time.

b) membership has a monthly cost. rentals per month are unlimited but fixed to 2 at a time. (that number would change as you go further up the tier so someone could pay $X per month and be allowed 2 at time and a family could pay $2X and be allowed 5 at a time. rather than unlimited rental time, titles would be due back in a fixed period (again, could be tiered) before incurring late fees.

I understand netflix's problems stem from people having to wait forever for titles but with a walkin store you wouldn't have that prob because essentially you'd only be picking from what was right in front of you. You'd also only be competing with "locals" not people state-wide.


blueshammer, thanks... yeah, it's finances that have kept me from doing it so far.
posted by dobbs at 1:50 PM on January 28, 2004

A local store near me has, in addition to the usual "drama", "action", "comedy", etc... sections, a "favourites" rack as big as all the others. This isn't just a shelf with one or two staff picks, but two-, three-hundred movies. After whipping past the new releases, it's the first rack I head to. Substantial elbow work and some digging in the corners is often required---it's the most popular rack(s) in the store. I've been introduced to some of my personal favourites on this rack: Babette's Feast, First Night, Like Water for Chocolate (hey, I'm a foodie, give me a break). Anyway, well picked films that are super popular.

They have "cult" and "musical" sections that are usually worth checking out too. All queer-friendly movies (say "Ginger Snaps" or "But I'm a Cheerleader") have little pink triangles on them. For those that look for that in a film, this seems to be a really popular feature.
posted by bonehead at 1:52 PM on January 28, 2004

See also: Pezado Chunk

"Will they have 30 copies of the latest Sandler film? No, but will they have films a 1000 times more bizarre, more entertaining and more impressive to everyone you know? You better damn well believe it."
posted by ColdChef at 1:53 PM on January 28, 2004

300 (unrented) copies of Master Of Disguise, one (never available) copy of This Is Spinal Tap.

I live in a small town (less than 10,000) so everytime I look for something unusual (an old Woody Allen movie or Pink Flamingos) and I see that it's checked out, my first reaction is, "Who is the other freak in this town besides me?"
posted by ColdChef at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2004

the store/manufacturer couldn't decide if it was horror, sci-fi, fantasy or mystery.

This is my #1 peeve about video rental stores. Each one has their own private taxonomy of movies, and I can't understand any of them. Is it drama? "Cult?" "Special Interest?" "Foreign?" Or is it "New Release"--a category that sometimes encompasses movies that were released on video almost a year ago, but still rent well? Two local video stores I frequent each have one of my favorite films, Terry Gilliam's Brazil, in different sections: One in "Comedy," the other in "Drama."

Short of scrapping categories and sorting everything by A-Z, why not put in cross-references? Little cards that say, "Looking for x? It's in the Y section." Database terminals (or their low-tech equivalent, a printed catalog of the inventory) are also helpful here.
posted by profwhat at 2:08 PM on January 28, 2004

One of the coolest things I liked about my local rental store before it was bought out was the 7-7-7 deal: 7 old realeas movies for 7 days for 7 dollars.
posted by rhapsodie at 2:30 PM on January 28, 2004

blueshammer, thanks... yeah, it's finances that have kept me from doing it so far.

Well, I'm not saying that I'd have a lot of money to throw at it ... it's just that the appeal of running a great brick-and-mortar video store is just another of those many things we seem to have in common.
posted by blueshammer at 2:40 PM on January 28, 2004

I have the great good fortune to have two really good video stores within a brisk walk of my front door. Both of these have big sections of non-mainstream stuff (one has an entire aisle of Hong Kong action flicks, the other seems to have all the Keiko Mask movies, both have underground stuff that is probably illegal). To some extent, this works because I'm the right demographic for these stores--there are a lot of other people like me nearby to rent from them. I have no idea whether that's true for you, but certainly something to take into account.

Figure out either what the demographics surrounding your store will be and cater to those people, or figure out where the people you want to cater to live, and put your store there.

Things I like: Although classifications can be arbitrary, both my favorite shops have director's walls (actually, one has sort of an "auteur's wall" but they don't call it that) and pretty fine-grained classifications. One has a public computer online, which I think has the IMDB as the home page. Brilliant. The other has extremely snarky employee reviews right on the boxes, which makes visiting the store half the fun.

What's Up Tiger Lily has been stolen from every store in my area. Assuming you stock it, demand a $20 deposit on it.
posted by adamrice at 2:48 PM on January 28, 2004

Blockbuster's "rent it-like it-own it" thing is exactly how it sounds: you rent a movie, decide you want to buy it, and you get a discount on the purchase of that particular movie. (I'm not sure whether you're buying a pre-owned copy or a new one, having never actually done it. I do know that you return the one you watched before making the purchase.) Pretty straightforward.

Another idea would be to hold screenings and/or film discussions. Basically form a community around the store, rather than just selling/renting flicks.
posted by me3dia at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2004

When I walk into a video store, I am most likely wanting to see a movie. Once. But every time I rent, I have to pay for three days, at a price figured for three days worth of viewing.
How about a one day price, and a three day price, or a rebate if the movie is brought back the next day? Say, if I checked out a movie for three days, but I brought it back the next day.... Can I have a 50 cent credit?
If my local video store offered this, I would love it.
And more pbscure films, I agree.
And free popcorn.
And dancing girls.
posted by bradth27 at 2:55 PM on January 28, 2004

You might do a poll about the desirability of a delivery service. I don't know about others, but I hate having to drive over to the rental place. If I could logon and pick the movie to be brought to me, that would rock.

If you have your real inventory on-line, then it should be pretty easy to get some kid to deliver the movies for you. Maybe partner with a local pizza joint. You send sales their way, and their drivers swing by to pick up the tapes.
posted by willnot at 3:03 PM on January 28, 2004

My favorite video store, Video Americain in the DC area, has a mammoth "best directors" section, that organizes movies by name rather than genre/title. That's always been my favorite thing about the place.
posted by claxton6 at 3:05 PM on January 28, 2004

Carry lots of non Region 1 discs. That's one thing I like about my local video store. Also, consider renting and/or selling all-region players.
posted by gluechunk at 3:32 PM on January 28, 2004

Great Thread. I can't give any ideas, but i did email you.
posted by th3ph17 at 3:44 PM on January 28, 2004

Rental/Sale of "Region-X" DVD players.
If you liked this, then you'll also like ... stickers.
Surly (but knowledgable) staff.
posted by seanyboy at 3:59 PM on January 28, 2004

Here in Oakland, we have "Reel Video". It appears to be an independently run subsidiard/franchise of Hollywood Video. They have an amazing selection of movies. Hugemongous, even.

Good luck find your movie, though, especially if you're looking for video. Take "12 Monkeys" for example. If I wanted to find 12 Monkeys at Reel I would consider looking first in the Sci-Fi section - because it is sort of sci-fi movie. Then I would look in the Bruce Willis section. Then, just for kicks, I'd look in the Brad Pitt section. Not finding it in any of those, I suppose I'd wander over to drama.

I've never looked for that specific movie, but I think you get the idea. Their DVD section is a lilttle easier, simply because they don't have movies going back to when God was a boy, but it is starting to get out of hand, and their classification system still has some kinks in it.

Also - they never ever seem to have enough staff. Ever. Especially on friday and saturday nights...

(amounts are in USD, if you're elsewhere, please convert..)

What do I want? I want to not pay $55 in late fees next time I forget to return a couple of new movies for a week. Shit, for that price, I might as well have bought the movie.

Have a sliding scale on movie rental time and charges.
If the movie isn't a "new release" just make it $1/day and ask the customer when they're going to return it. If it is a new release, then have different rates. Say $3 for 1 day, $5 for 2 days, $7 for 3 days.

If someone is renting a shitload of movies - cut them a deal.

I don't know how to handle late fees - and while Reel can charge an arm and a leg for them if you forget about the movie - sometimes the employees will cut you some slack, either removing part of the fee or letting you pay later. Once the late fees hit a certain size, just consider the movie bought. Or something. I mean really - if I'm going to pay the retail price for owning the movie to rent the movie, I might as well get to keep it, right?

You guessed it. I can never return a movie on time.
posted by jaded at 4:07 PM on January 28, 2004

Directors. Directors. Directors. Everything I know about movies I learned from watching Directors. Not by genre or academy awards or however else movies are classified. I would rent more movies if I had educational material about a director, most directors have books, rent the book along with the works (or as complete as exists on DVD). Focus on education and expanding movie-phile literacy, they will rent more movies and thank you for it.

The way movie stores are today you go in and things are sorted by genre then sub-sorted alphabetically by movie title. That would be like going into a music store and the album titles are sorted alphabetically with no regard to the band name. Instead, it is sorted by the band name (the creator) that is what people care about. Directors are the key IMO, if you carry a directors work, carry as much of that work as possible.
posted by stbalbach at 4:09 PM on January 28, 2004

This is probably not good advice, but I really wish my local video store carried CD's. Soundtracks only, of course. And somewhat obscure ones, to boot. I'd love to be able to go and rent a movie and pick up Ennio Morricone's OST for "Danger Diabolik" (say) at the same time.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:20 PM on January 28, 2004

dobbs, first let me say that, being in Toronto, I hope you do this - let me know, and I'll be customer #1 in the door. But (to diverge from your question) a couple of caveats, of which you may be aware. First, FYI, Revue Video has just declared the death of VHS - they're aggressively buying DVDs, and selling all of their VHS stock for $5 a pop. Second - bear in mind the computer stores on College St., where DVD burners are selling for well under $200. I really think you need to go into the business clear-eyed about just how long it will be before VOD and Netflix-style services make it very hard to subsist as an indie video store.

What I like to see: an up-to-date, online inventory, ideally updated live with what's rented/available. Value-added memberships, with perks like reservation privileges, a few amnesties for late returns, etc. An intelligently curated, well-organized shop. Displays that show more than the spine of the DVD. Maybe a couple of kiosk-terminals hooked up to IMDB, so folks could check out reviews in-store. Maybe even link up with Grocery Gateway to have "drop-off" locations downtown, so people working in the core can return things on their way to work.

Good luck - let me know what happens.
posted by stonerose at 4:23 PM on January 28, 2004

Response by poster: Great stuff, people. I love AskMe! Keep em coming.

Stonerose, thanks for the tips. I fear not Revue--they posed zero threat to me at A&T. Nice guys though. I worry more about VOD than Netflix like places. I like going into stores and browsing and think lots of people do as well. A&T was a real part of the community and any store I run, I will make an effort to ensure that's the case.

I agree re: onine inventory. I had that in A&T in 1995--not updated live though, of course; updated monthly or so--when no other store in the city even had a site, let alone a list of titles. I agree about the kiosk thing.

I will keep you posted should anything develop.

Re: many people's comments about directors. Yes, that's how I'd organize. Art & Trash was organized hiearchically & Alphabetically: Country/Director/Title. I would do the same thing again.
posted by dobbs at 4:59 PM on January 28, 2004

I think the perfect video shop sorts movies into sub-genre. It doesn't just lump everything into comedy and action but places every movie in the right sub-section: revenge, coming of age, biopic, romantic comedy, parody, courtroom drama etc. Crime films should be sorted into detective stories, gangster films, murder mystery, heist, caper etc.

The shop could have fun mixing up things and promoting unusual themes and subjects--eg, paranoia, movies about going native, fish out of water movies.
posted by dydecker at 5:00 PM on January 28, 2004

Dobbs - reread willnot's suggestion. Partnering up with a pizza joint is worth exploring. I like obscure films as much as the next guy, but I want the mainstream releases too, and if I can grab them at the grocery store while picking up dinner then I'll save my dollar for the faceless, nameless conglomerate because they made my life easier. The attraction to Netflix is the convenience, but there's more than one way to skin that cat. Offer a movie promo with dinner, including delivery (not reliant on this concept, but as a value-added service) and I think you will improve your chances.
posted by vito90 at 5:05 PM on January 28, 2004

Consider one of these.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:12 PM on January 28, 2004

my local dvd rental place rules because:

-- very good selection of vintage/non-US/art films

-- the owner and the clerks have good taste (the owner's a Louis Malle freak) and know a lot about movies, hence you can trust their opinions re movies you're not familiar with

-- good conversation, they're nice people -- and they're not condescending to people who are dying to rent some crappy Hollywood lame flick, that is a plus

-- as a frequent customer (I rent and also buy some), I get a nice discount on late fees

I wish they had an even larger library, but it's an independent store, so they're probably on a budget of some kind
posted by matteo at 5:14 PM on January 28, 2004

Lastly from me -- out here in the boonies we have one rental place that is about eight miles away. However, they have a drop box that is right in town [at the hardware store] just a big box with a lock on it, accessible via the mail slot, or some such, after hours. They have my business for life because while I have to drive out to get a movie, I can drop it off right in my neighborhood.
posted by jessamyn at 5:15 PM on January 28, 2004

why why why did I leave Toronto? Now I am stuck in Boston with no great videostores in sight. Videosmith in Brookline and Hollywood Express in Central Square come close, but they're not even in the same league as Scarecrow in Seattle. I've spent hours at this store. They have everything right: no membership, all kinds of region DVD's, deposits on films that might be rare (a hold on a credit card on the value of the film in case of damage), great staff (knowledgeable and NOT pretentious: beware of this on the east coast), and sections that go way beyond the standard comedy, drama, new releases. I'd be curious to know the rentability of DVD's v. tape in terms of number of damaged goods. It seems to me that it is easier to trash a DVD, and at the local that I go to I've overheard conversations about the unreliability of DVD's as retal medium. Might be worth looking into tape to satify us purists.

p.s. anyone recommend a great rental place in Boston?
posted by grimley at 5:17 PM on January 28, 2004

retal = rental, I think.
posted by grimley at 5:18 PM on January 28, 2004

My local video store is Videoport which is, just FYI, the greatest video store in the universe.

-- Knowledgeable, freakish and surly yet surprisingly approachable staff.
-- Delivery! (You pay through the nose, but its worth it when you have the 'flu.)
-- Videoport Daily Deals
-- The 'Incredibly Strange Movies' section
-- I don't have to pay at the moment I rent -- I can have a balance of up to $10 before they'll stop me from renting more. (I don't think they offer this for new customers.)
-- Completely amazing selection
-- Rentals are 3 or 5 days, mostly, but I get a $1 credit to my account if I return within 24 hours
-- Incredible, superior selection
-- Funky basement location (next to a Pizza place and an alternative music store) decorated with obscure movie memorabilia and tinfoil sculpture
-- Nifty plastic card I can keep on my keyring and thus never lose
-- Strong support for local indy and amateur film makers
posted by anastasiav at 6:14 PM on January 28, 2004

My 2 cents - organizing by sub-genre or director is cool, but a painful way to shop for movies if you are looking for something specific and don't know that much about it. If you don't know the right subgenre, or the director, then finding a film can be tough. Very frustrating if it's a busy night and the clerks can't help you find the movie. Also, for casual browsing, if you aren't sure you're in the mood for a 'biopic', for example, sub-genres can be too specific. I guess there are pros/cons with both approaches, but I would think it could get very painful on a Friday night trying to locate films for people based on this system.

I also think it's important for video store employees to be equally cool if you are looking for a Cassavetes film or 'The Net' - it can be stressful if the staff is so knowledgable/cool that they intimidate people who like both good and bad movies. That could just be me, though.

AND, the coolest thing about my local video store compared w/ the chains is that all the new releases are on one wall so you can scan without walking past a hundred copies of one movie to get to the next release.

Anyway, good luck!
posted by drobot at 6:33 PM on January 28, 2004

Okay a few things to consider...

Since you're going DVD only, you will be able to get by with a lot less space, so perhaps the place should be slightly smaller than your regular video store.

No "Pan-and-Scan" sounds good, since widescreen tv's are getting more common consumers are getting starting to get a clue and widescreen is getting more popular.

Suspect Video in Toronto gets a significant percentage of it's revenue from anime rentals, and there's a lot of stuff out there even they don't have. If you have a lot of it people will think of your store first to rent it.

A non region-1 section sounds fascinating. I'd definately would go out of my way to check that out.

It might be worthwhile to close later than midnight. In the past five years or so I've been noticing a lot more places around Toronto are open 24hrs, since more people are working odd hours. If I had a nickel for every time I'd heard someone say "Too bad all the video stores are closed" I'd have 35 cents.
posted by bobo123 at 6:46 PM on January 28, 2004

How about a one day price, and a three day price, or a rebate if the movie is brought back the next day?

The Hastings chain has a deal like this.

Videodrome in Chapel Hill used to have an amazing selection organized by director.

And I second anastasiav's shout out to Videoport. Consistently good for many years.
posted by anathema at 6:58 PM on January 28, 2004

selection and knowledgable staff are key.

i don't care if you have only 1 copy of any given film if it means having that many more different films to choose from.

ideally i want staff that are cinephiles themselves.
staff that know without looking on imdb what the last film orson welles did voice over work in is. staff that can get from kikujiro to new jack city in 1 degree of separation.

computer kiosks that show where things are shelved and dynamically update whether they're in or not would be ideal.
posted by juv3nal at 7:56 PM on January 28, 2004

One idea that might satisfy both the customers who like sub-sub-subgenre classifications and the customers who like everything easy to find:

1.) Organize all the DVD cases in alphabetical order, by movie name.

2.) Make up five or ten simple little booklets for the store that feature dozens of subgenre classifications -- Coming of Age, Heist, Swingin' '60s, Teen-Angst '80s, Robert Altman, Korea, Patrick Swayze, Buckets of Blood, Cannes Winners, Film School 101, Men With Mascara, etc. -- and then list the appropriate movie titles for each category. Obviously, many movies could fit in multiple categories.

If the books are simple -- with clear plastic covers and photocopied sheets -- you could probably update them every month or so, once people have gotten their grubby fingerprints all over them. Anyway, I'd love a system like that, but I've never seen it anywhere.
posted by lisa g at 8:00 PM on January 28, 2004

There is a place like most of this already.

Videos, Movies and DVDs at TLA Video

Four locations in the philly area. Really brilliant.

And there people love films. Please, take a look at my login name.
posted by filmgeek at 8:31 PM on January 28, 2004

The pizza joint idea is a winner.

Also, guaranteed movie selections, as in "You'll love this staff pick or we'll refund your money."

Put little stickers with the ratings from RottenTomatoes or some such site on the DVDs. I bet you can find a site that would love to supply you with such stickers.

Set up an Internet-connected kiosk that lets you scan barcodes from the DVDs and automatically go to IMDB and other sites that have info on the movie.

Offer to let people apply their last rental to buying the movie. (Have the order drop-shipped from a distributor.)

Use your rental records (and maybe Amazon's data) to send personal mailings to customers making further recommendations based on what rentals they and your other customers have in common. They might let you at it, if they're the distributor for your drop-ship orders (see above).

Offer a "kids' card" that parents can give to their offspring, which has a limit of one rental per month or week or whatever (let the parents set this) and has a parent-selectable maximum movie rating.

Stock music video, especially concert videos. Most stores' selection of these is pretty lame. Also sell movie soundtrack CDs, that's a great idea someone else had.

The partner-with-a-pizza-joint idea is a great one. A friend of mine who lives near Detroit has such an outfit nearby. Actually it's a pizza joint coupled with a drive-through convenience store, and they will deliver anything the store sells along with your pizza, plus video rentals, and they will take payment in returnables. It's very popular.
posted by kindall at 9:15 PM on January 28, 2004

When I say knowledgeable staff, have staff that know the good shit but also the difference between good bad shit and bad bad shit.
posted by biffa at 2:32 AM on January 29, 2004

I think I'm going to print out this thread and hand the copies over to my local video store...

And dobbs, don't worry, I live in Stockholm, Sweden! ;)
posted by soundofsuburbia at 3:28 AM on January 29, 2004

There's a place in NYC called Two Boots that combines the video-rental, pizza, and live-event angles. It's pretty cool. The pizza is OK but nothing special. The video selection (IIRC) is pretty good, and though I never went to an event there, they seemed to have plenty of interesting ones scheduled.

Might be worth a visit if you are ever in that part of the world.
posted by adamrice at 9:06 AM on January 29, 2004

I should mention that I've obtained 98% of my non-owned movies in the past three months through the public library. Madison, Wis., is the perfect size for there to be a pretty good selection, and not a lot of waits for non-new releases. I can manage my queue online (although the search tool is not great, and "browsing" is near impossible) and have the movie shipped to the library six blocks from my house. Rentals are free and late fees are a dime (although only at my branch; DVD late fees at most branches are a buck). In my mortgage-bearing/child-rearing state, it's a terrific solution.

A free group-movie-rating service unaffiliated from Amazon, et al., is http://movielens.umn.edu.
posted by blueshammer at 9:18 AM on January 29, 2004

An interesting thing that my favourite video place used to do was changing theme walls. They'd put up a selection of 10-15 films that fit some theme. It might be a director, or works of Shakespeare or Vietnam war films or whatever. I think they changed them weekly, but I usually only went there once a month, so I'm not positive; it might have been monthly. It wasn't just a slapdash 'throw everything that fits the bill on the wall' thing, either. They'd select the films with a certain amount of care, so you could be pretty sure that whatever was on the wall was a good film, in addition to fitting the theme.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:50 AM on January 29, 2004

What I hate most about going to the video store:

Me: "Hi, just this movie please."
Checker: "Actually, you need to go back to the shelf and get one of the unmarked boxes. This one is just for display."
Me: "Oh, well, there weren't any other boxes, just this one."
Checker: "That means they're all checked out. Sorry!"

In other words: if all copies of a movie are checked out, remove the empty box with the glossy packaging, too! I always get taken in by this one, because different stores do things differently, and in many, taking the empty box up to the front is the correct way to go about it. Since the absence of the unmarked boxes doesn't stand out visually, I always forget that's the way it works.


Oh, and organize by genre, and sub-sub genre all you want, it's more fun to browse. But have a real, working computer-station locating method so you can find what you want when you know what you want.

Oh, and be Netflix.

(sorry, dobbs!)
posted by scarabic at 3:02 PM on January 29, 2004

« Older How should I move on from spinning records at...   |   Does anyone have any tips, pointers, warnings, etc... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.