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Some Video Stores Stay Alive As Technology Changes

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By MYLINH HOANG
The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — It’s no secret that the number of video stores in the United States is diminishing. The culprit? The World Wide Web. The big shot players of video streaming like Netflix, YouTube and Hulu are the top spot holders when it comes to viewing movies and TV episodes online.

In 1992, there were about nine video rental stores in Hagerstown. Today, there is only one.

More people are choosing convenience instead of driving to brick-and-mortar stores.

But not everyone feels that the Internet is killing the video store.

Some people in today’s everchanging world of technology still enjoy the idea of browsing the rows of DVDs in a store and
consulting store employees for recommendations.

“Not everybody likes to operate off their computer, especially in a smaller town like this,” said Bonnie Hamberger, manager at Wonder Book and Video in Hagerstown. “A lot of people like to come in and browse the shelves instead of using their computer.”

The one element video streaming cannot offer consumers is face-to-face contact.

“I shop at video stores for the interaction with people. Things are getting too computerized nowadays,” said
Russell Herman, a customer at Family Video in Williamsport.

Then there are the DVD kiosks, or “little machines at the grocery stores” as Walter Vaughn, a customer at Wonder Book and Video refers to it.

“They have things like that where you can go right there, use your credit card, swipe it for a night and then bring it back,”
Vaughn said. “But I think the future of actual video stores is probably not a good thing.”

According to RedBox.com, there are more than 30,000 locations in the United States, with 68 percent of the population living within five minutes of a Redbox.

But fans of brick-and-mortar stores say Redbox kiosks do not provide human contact.

Nearly three years ago, Blockbuster Video stores in Hagerstown on Dual Highway and Pennsylvania Avenue shut down because of a dramatic decrease nationally in video rentals. It was also during that time that many people turned their attention to Netflix and Redbox.

The rapid closing of mega giant DVD- rental stores such as Blockbuster and Hollywood Video in the last few years have forced some local video stores to expand their selection from DVDs to Blu-rays, Xbox and PS3 game rentals.

Beside movies and television streaming on the Internet, millions of media consumers can now watch videos on their mobile device or tablet whenever and wherever they desire. Companies are incorporating videos on their mobile application or website and looking at ways to create quality videos that attract viewers.

Yet local businesses like Wonder Book and Video and Family Video remain open for business, even though millions of Americans have transitioned to viewing movies and television episodes online.

Several small-town video stores remain open and their owners say they hope to withstand this major technological change.

“I won’t say thrive, but I think the local video stores will be able to continue to survive at least for a while longer, another decade or two,” said Ron Hebb, owner of Family Video in Williamsport.

No matter how often technology changes, there will always be a generation who relishes the “old stuff.” Some people have yet to transition into watching movies and television episodes online.

There is just something about watching movies and TV episodes on a television that makes it a unique experience.

“I’m not into the big movies that are out now because I don’t like most of the stuff that they show. When I see the previews on the old movies, I’m like, that looks like a really good movie,”‘ said Emileigh Ebersole, a Wonder Book and Video customer.

Vaughn still believes in browsing in person, saying that it’s hard to find items he’s looking for on the Internet.

“I do like going and trying to get things that’s old and hard to find like movies and DVDs,” he said.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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