Providing quality and varied choice is the only way for video rental stores to stay in the business
This June, subscribers of American media streaming website Netflix watched a record one billion hours of video. The news came close on the heels of another one — three of America’s biggest brick and mortar video rentals — Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video — filing for bankruptcy. This is certainly no co-incidence. Earlier this year Reliance Entertainment’s BigFlix , the first and only company to adopt the Netflix model, announced their decision to go completely online.
In spite of an announcement to open over 200 rental stores around the country by 2008, all registered BigFlix stores in the city have shut down. Try looking for their store in Banjara Hills and you are met with quizzical looks even by the staff of Reliance Web World which operates out of the same building.
To Taj Khan, owner of Fribzi video library, this doesn’t come as a surprise. He had to close down their outlet in Srinagar colony and Secunderabad. For the first time in 22 years, Khan has reduced his rates in order to get more customers and sustain the ones he already has. He has also stopped charging fines for copies that are overdue. “While English movies still do well, the market for Hindi and Telugu movies has almost disappeared,” he says.
This, he attributes, to the inability to control piracy in the country. “Pirated versions arrive two days after the film has released while the original DVD release takes place after a month. No one is going to wait that long when other options are available.” If stores in America, where laws against piracy are far stricter and better imposed, are shutting down then you can only imagine the extent of the crisis faced by stores in Indian cities. Subsequently, vendors selling pirated copies on the streets are flourishing.
A deceptively simple red board on Road number 3, Banjara Hills directs you to this paradise for movie watchers. The racks are lined with a variety of films from Ishaqzaade to Akira Kurosava. Founded only a year and a half ago by Kiran Sreeramaneni, CinemaScope does not limit itself to just movie rentals. Attached to the library are a small café and a private screening room. “Most of our revenue,” says Kiran “is from the World Movies section. These films are rarely screened in theatres and finding a good subtitled print online are difficult.” The store’s blue ray discs are a hit with customers most of whom have high end movie theatres at home. The movies are rented according to the cost of the DVD.
Granted, the market has changed, but along with the internet access that is spelling the death of these businesses, there comes exposure to various other genres of cinema which are not popular enough to be available on the streets and the internet. It is in tapping this potential that the futures of the cities video libraries lay.