Internet Is Killing Your Video Store: A Sobering SOS from Four Star Video on Cortland Street

Four Star Video
If there’s one thing we all learn while living on the slopes of a big hill, it is this: In the end, we cannot evade the forces of gravity.

Along the same lines, even though Bernalwood recently celebrated the fact that Cortland Street is still home to a wonderful video rental store, it’s now clear that Four Star is fighting a desperate battle against the forces of gravity (and intertia) which threaten to render it extinct.

This week, Ken posted a candid note on the Four Star Video blog, to the effect that times are tough — despite the fact that the store is much-loved by the neighborhood.

People of the planet, it is winter. Our constructs are disintegrating. Our financial systems are degrading. It is becoming more and more obvious that we are insects clamoring on top of each other for food. It is possible that the jig is up. Like the fate of the honeybees, our hives are corrupt and the buzz of activity is falling silent. Yet we rise to the occasion with positivity again and again! I admire that about us so much! Yet, alas, I am a bit pessimistic about Four Star Video, as I know so many of you are.

I read that even though Blockbuster has the same 28 day wait for Warner Brothers titles that Netflix has, they are still closing 182 stores in 2011 with a full bankruptcy and emergence from bankruptcy plan. Strangely, I don’t feel elation or anything about this. Just a somewhat distant numbness. What will happen with this industry?

Who likes a video store? Raise your hands. I know Four Star Video rules. I know we get crazy cool movies from all over the planet that you probably wouldn’t know about unless you saw them on our shelves. I know we have the only no-late-fee service in San Francisco. I know we spend more on movies than we probably should b/c we want to have as many copies as possible for new release Tuesday every week. I know we have the biggest Blu-ray section in SF with probably 6 or 700 titles. I know we are the only video/plant store on planet earth. Yet…I don’t sense we are what people want. [...]

I put out that survey a few months ago, and I got 300ish results. They were fascinating! And almost exclusively positive. Yet, we are down 12% this year, after going down 8% the year before. So I think that though you love yourselves a video store, you also love free movies (bit torrent, the library), easy access movies, money be damned movies(on demand, cable), internet services (streaming) and the gentle tushy-growing ease of sitting on the couch.

By all means, read the whole thing. It’s bracing stuff. And if you find yourself with some downtime over the holidays, stop by Four Star to, you know, rent a movie and brighten their day. Please.

But at the same time, know that the clear-eyed candor of Four Star’s blog post has been echoed by other high-quality video stores around town. They are all struggling against similar forces of high-tech gravity and consumer inertia.

Not long ago, for example, I wrote about a similar cri de coeur from Lost Weekend video on Valencia. Lost Weekend’s tragicomic response to their bad situation was to revisit the lyrics to “Video Killed the Radio Star” and rewrite the song as “Internet Killed the Video Store.”

Internet Killed the Video Store?

By all means, please do what you can to keep Four Star in business. It is a precious — and increasingly rare — resource. And wish them good luck, because they will need it.

Photos: Telstar Logistics

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4 thoughts on “Internet Is Killing Your Video Store: A Sobering SOS from Four Star Video on Cortland Street

  1. Ken is great, as is Four Star! However, I would like to note that the Sunset’s Top Video World (which can be found at 9th and Judah and the NYT-beloved stretch of Judah between 46th and 47th) also offers no-late-fee service.

    Does that sound totally picky? Probably, but Top Video World is my nabe shop, and I try to get the word out on them when I can.

    They face the same pressures Ken and Four Star do, and I hope all my neighbors on the city’s west side will consider giving Top Video World their business, in the way I can tell y’all hope your neighbors will do as much for Four Star.

  2. Ken and his wife are amazing, good-hearted people who deserve to keep a vital neighborhood business going. I’m sure the Sunset shop mentioned is fine but who in their right mind would go way the hell out to the Sunset to rent a video?? The great thing about Bernal is the neighborly community, so get off your butts and lend some support to a few great members of the Bernal community this week.

  3. I’ve had nothing but excellent and knowledgeable service at Four Star. Extremely easy to rent movies there and great deals. AND they had a copy of Songs From The Second Floor that I’ve been dying to rent… Will do soon, I’m sure!

  4. Pingback: Sadness: Four Star Video Announces Immediate Closure | Bernalwood

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