Opportunity Knocks with Fade-Out of Video Stores…

On Thursday, there was a story in The Wall Street Journal that talked about how “technology is killing the video-rental store–and a piece of American culture with it.”

alanvideoWhile reading about Alan’s Alley Video, run by Alan Sklar in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood for nearly two dozen years, I am reminded of the fate of independent bookstores who were forced to re-invent themselves in order to survive in a market dominated by Amazon, Powells and to some extent, Borders.

In Sklar’s case, it is Netflix, Redbox, and movies on-demand that are pulling business away.

The independent video stores that cropped up in the 1970s were staffed by cinephiles who gladly shared their knowledge (and passion).  Sound familiar?

Quentin Tarantino is the one often mentioned in the context of video stores — referencing the years he spent working at a shop called Video Archives in Hermosa Beach, Calif., while writing his first screenplays. During an interview with Charlie Rose back in 1994, Tarantino talked about how he “got to be little Mr. Critic at the store, putting films in peoples hands, and arguing my points about why this movie was good and this movie was bad.”

With the demise of independent, brick & mortar video stores, that kind of counsel takes place online (via blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

Stepping back, look at how independent movie palaces of the past have pretty much disappeared — replaced by multiplexes.  Clearly, there is a need for new business models where the independents can co-exist with the big boys.

A friend of mine told me about an independent movie house in Encinitas, Calif., called La Paloma Theatre, that specializes in surf films. That’s brilliant!

In May, Taylor Steele is an award-winning director, producer, and filmmaker who’s shot his film’s from coastlines all over the planet, premiered his latest film “Castles in the Sky” at the historic La Paloma Theater in front of a packed house.

The La Paloma got its start in 1928, screening the film “The Cohen’s And Kelly’s in Paris.” Per the website, the gala event was attended by Hollywood starlet and soon to be Academy Award winner Mary Pickford. It has been rumored that she rode her bicycle all the way to La Paloma from Fairbanks Ranch for the event.

La Paloma (The Dove) was one of the first theaters to show “Talkies.” Talking pictures premiered in 1927 with the Warner Bros. film “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson. Making the transition from silent pictures to “talkies” didn’t happen over night, so La Paloma was also equipped with a beautiful pipe organ, a standard piece of theatre equipment during the Silent era. Films in the early days of motion pictures were usually preceded by a vaudeville stage act, and La Paloma was well suited for that.

Circling back to the top, the culture doesn’t need to be killed off when the business model doesn’t work out. Rather, the culture — the essence — just needs to be reconfigured/reinvented. In fact, a term that has become quite popular today is “re-imagined.”

Don’t look at these as “gloom & doom” stories. Look at them as, “what could be done differently” opportunities.

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