Video stores are expanding every week, and not just their inventory of rental cassettes.
These days they are also vendors of popcorn, candy, soft drinks, new and used . . . or rather, previously viewed . . . videos - and even movie magazines.In addition to renting recent movies and videotape players, most stores also have their fair share of old films - classics from the silent era, early talkies and golden oldies; episodes from TV series, specials and cable programs; music videos, from Elvis to Madonna; and Nintendo and Sega video games. And some rent videodiscs and players.
VHS tapes dominate the market, of course, but you can still find Beta tapes for rent - if you know where to look. But the truth is, Beta is on the way out, and some local stores are selling off their inventory.
Another truth is that video superstores are eating the Mom-and-Pop shops alive. And it's easy to see why. They're huge, they accommodate most tastes and, after all, if a store with 10,000 tapes doesn't have something for you, who does?
"Something for you" isn't necessarily the same as something you really want, however. For that you may have to look a little harder. (When only a specific title will do, it's always best to get on the phone before you get in your car.)
The most heated competition comes from highly touted releases of hit movies like "The Hunt for Red October." Most stores will carry it, but "Hunt" - along with many others - retails for $99.95. Smaller stores can only afford a copy or two and risk alienating customers who want to see it right away. Superstores buy 30 to 50 copies each, better meeting the initial demand. (Several stores reported having rented every copy the first day "Hunt" came in.)
Most Salt Lake video stores have an inventory considerably smaller than 10,000 tapes, so they try to survive by specializing.
There are a lot of generic stores that carry a little of everything but not a lot of anything in particular. They range from markets like Smith's, Albertson's and Dan's to neighborhood gas stations and convenience stores.
But stores dealing primarily or exclusively in video rentals have come to realize they must offer something special or they'll go unnoticed.
Sure, every store is going to have at least a few copies of "Pretty Woman" to rent. But they'd better offer a little something extra if they expect to survive.
Purchasing videos is briefly discussed here, but the main topic is rentals. The findings come from an informal Deseret News survey of local video stores. Some stores were more cooperative than others, and the business is changing so rapidly that an advance apology is in order if your favorite rental shop has been ignored or if you feel an issue has been overlooked. Please feel free to drop a line with your dissenting vote.
THE BIG GUNS
Sounds Easy, a national chain, just celebrated its 10th anniversary as the first video rental shop to open its doors in Utah. There are now 11 Salt Lake stores, with a 12th close to opening. The largest is in Sandy, at 9860 S. 700 East, with about 11,000 tapes for rent (representing some 8,700 different titles). The smallest has 2,500.
Goodtime Video is also in the 11,000-tape range. The Utah County-based chain, with five stores in the Provo-Orem area, has only one Salt Lake store, 293 E. 3300 South, but recently bought up two Screenplay Video stores (each with 10,000 tapes) in Midvale and Kearns.
Big Mountain Video, 2775 W. 7800 South, also lays claim to about 11,000 tapes.
Blockbuster Video, a nationwide chain with eight Salt Lake stores, backed by a huge advertising budget (it sponsors TV's "Siskel & Ebert" review program). Each store has around 10,000 tapes.
Rocky Mountain Video, 2200 W. 3500 South, also has a 10,000-tape inventory.
The lowest rental fee is 47 cents for some overnight rentals at Video Room, 10366 S. Redwood Road. The highest is $3.19 for some overnight rentals at the Video Shop, 480 E. South Temple. The average is $3 for new videos, $2 for older videos and $1 for children's videos over a two-night, three-day period.
The smallest inventory in town would seem to be Flash Thru, 4073 W. 3500 South, with 400 tapes, while the largest are probably the aforementioned Sounds Easy and Big Mountain Video stores, with nearly 11,000 each. (Two superstores claimed 14,000, but when called the next day dropped the number to 10,000.)
Most of the larger, better-organized stores have policies about not renting R-rated videos to minors without parental permission. And certain stores, such as Video Room and the Avalon, 3605 S. State, carry no hard R-rated material, priding themselves on a "family" orientation.
Another service that seems to be getting more popular is reserving specific titles up to 30 days ahead, as done by Rocky Mountain Video and Video Voyager, 4090 W. 5400 South.
There is a stereotype that young video store employees who answer phones and check out tapes don't know Charlie Chaplin from Charlie Sheen. That's obviously an exaggeration - they know Charlie Sheen. But it's true that an amazing number seem to know next to nothing about most of the films they rent. Exceptions should be thanked and praised. (Sounds Easy stores have an informed employee with an "Ask Me" button prowling each store on weekends.)
The best store in town for foreign films remains the Cinema Shop, 6315 Highland Drive, which just keeps expanding its foreign inventory. Of the 6,650 tapes in the store, about 500 are foreign, easily the most of any store in the state. It's also the only local video store where you can find "The Makioka Sisters," "The Gospel According to St. Matthew," certain Pasolini films and the 15 1/2-hour Fassbinder "Berlin Alexanderplatz," among others.
The Cinema in Your Face! Theater, 45 W. Third South, rents foreign and cult videos in its lobby, with an inventory of only 480 titles, but where else can you find the "Tournee of Animation" tapes?
Others with good foreign collections are the Blockbuster Video stores (each has 300 to 400 titles); Sounds Easy, 201 S. 1300 East (about 300); Foothill Video, 1455 S. 2300 East, Premiere Video, 45 W. 10600 South; Screenplay Video, 7182 S. State, The Video Shop, 480 E. South Temple; (each has about 200).
There's also at least one all-Spanish store, with most of its 1,000 titles strictly in Spanish - no English subtitles - Casa Blanca Imports, 25 E. Center, Midvale. And Video One, 484 S. Ninth West, has a collection of Spanish films "straight from Mexico." (The latter is also putting together a "black ethnic" section.)
After all these years of specializing in the classics, the Avalon video store, next to the movie theater of the same name (which also specializes in classic films), is still the best-stocked and best-informed of any in town. The store has 2,500 films and about 2,000 are classics.
Most stores have a fair number of classics these days; Blockbuster claims 1,500 classics per store.
Sounds Easy, 414 E. Third South, seems to have the largest number of silent classics, but Video Vern's, 4668 S. Holladay Blvd., is probably a close second. The Blockbusters also have silent movie sections. (No one wanted to put a specific number on this category; this is just personal observation.)
Most stores have at least a couple, but Blockbuster, in its "Le Bad Cinema" and "Drive-in Movies" sections, and Screenplay, with its "The Good, the Bad and the Different" area, seem to take special pride in titles ranging from "Eraserhead" to "Oh! Calcutta!" "Plan 9 From Outer Space" to "Pink Flamingos" to "Stuff Stephanie in the Incinerator" to "Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-A-Rama."
Blockbuster Video stores have this category sewn up: "The Fugitive," "Twilight Zone," "Outer Limits," "Star Trek," "I Love Lucy," "The Honeymooners," "Andy Griffith" - you name it.
The front-runner was once Collectables, 2702 S. 3600 West, which has given up the rental fight and now only sells. The inventory is still primarily classic TV and old films.
Only six rental outlets were located, the biggest being Inkley's, 1984 S. State St., with 1,300 videodiscs for rent. Laser's Edge, 3263 E. 3300 South, has 1,000 videodisc titles on hand and is now devoting itself primarily to discs, selling off its videotape inventory. (It's also the only store that rents players.) Another Inkley's, 115 W. 7200 South, has about 900 titles for rent.
Trolley Video, 3949 Wasatch Blvd., has 400 discs for rent, in addition to its tape inventory. The Avalon has about 75, mostly classics. And Video to Go, 501 E. 1700 South, despite an 8,800-tape inventory, has only 10 discs for rent.
It should be noted that both Sounds Easy and Blockbuster plan to start up videodisc rental sections in the next few months.
The number of stores still renting Beta far exceeded expectations.
The largest are clearly Video to Go, 501 E. 1700 South, and Video USA, 5608 S. Redwood Road, each with some 3,000 Beta tapes for rent.
The Video USA store at 527 S. 500 West has about 1,500; Trolley Video has 1,000.
Others: Video Heaven, two locations (700); Smith's Gas & Video, three locations (600); Laser's Edge (500); Bennett's Video, 4660 S. 4000 West (300, which are being rented while being sold off); Video Rental Store, 499 E. 2700 South (300).
The Cinema Shop is selling off its 1,000-tape inventory for $5 apiece, as is Valley Drug, 7650 S. State, with just 50 tapes left.
Video Land Movie Rental & VCR Repair, 4695 S. 900 East, rents Beta players, but none of its 5,000-tape inventory is Beta.VIDEO GAMES
Nintendo games dominate the field, though Sega is making inroads. There are too many stores renting video games to list them all (more than 20 stock over 100 games), but those with the largest number to choose from would seem to be the superstores.
If you're trying to build your own private video library, you can get discount and cheaply priced new videotapes at K-Mart, Fred Meyer, Musicland and a number of other non-video outlets - sometimes at better prices than the video stores offer.
The largest videodisc inventories can be found at Inkley's and Soundoff. ("The Hunt for Red October" on disc, by the way, retails for only $29.95.)
Low-priced "sell-through" videotapes, such as "Pretty Woman" and "Peter Pan," can be purchased for as much as $22.95 or as little as $16.95. When you're looking for one of these ultra-hyped titles, call around to find the best price.
"Previously viewed" tapes range from $4.99 to $12.99, though the average price is about $10. They can be found in just about any kind of retail store these days, not to mention the vans that show up on streetcorners some Saturday afternoons. But if you're looking for unusual titles instead of dozens of "Top Guns" or "Batmans" ("Batmen?"), check out your local video stores, which often recycle slow renters into their own "previously viewed" bins.