EDMOND — Manager Heath Clark compares his Family Video store to the sitcom “Cheers” — a place where everybody knows everyone's name and relationships are vital.
“Oklahoma is still that friendly, smiling video culture,” he said. “We're a big family state.”
But customer-employee interaction has declined over the past few years because of online streaming sites, such as Netflix, Redbox rental machines and the closing of video stores across the state.
There's no doubt technology has made movie rentals more accessible, but people usually have problems with those products when they need assistance, Clark, 34, said.
“There's no one there to talk to about it,” he said. “We go above and beyond to take care of them.”
Because of Web competition, some video rental companies, such as Blockbuster, have sought to offer additional online options to rent movies. A call to the Blockbuster's media relations department seeking comment for this story was not returned.
Family Video District Manager Tim O'Toole, 26, said his company's stores focus on creating a pleasant atmosphere for customers and price deals that keep them coming back. There are 28 Family Video stores in Oklahoma.
A family movie night used to involve driving to a rental store and browsing through the aisles for the perfect selection. Now families can go to a rental box around the corner or watch a film online without leaving home.
“The video store is no longer the most convenient source. The reason people are going to come back here is because the relationship we've built,” O'Toole said.
‘A better selection'
Tamara Tasse, 43, of Edmond, said she and her son, Jacob, 19, like to go to video stores to browse together. They like the diverse range of films available, she said.
“We do have Netflix, and that's OK for past series,” she said. “There just seems to be a better selection (at Family Video).”
Tasse said she also likes the atmosphere. Her son has special needs and finds comfort in being able to pick out the movies at a store.
O'Toole said rental stores benefit from restrictions film studios have placed on Netflix and Redbox machines. Rental stores usually have a new release at least 28 days before it is legally allowed to be streamed online, he said.
“The digital downloading, digital streaming has actually affected DVD sell-through more than it has affected the movie rental industry,” he said.
Depending on the studio, some websites might have to wait up to two months before they can stream the movie, O'Toole said. Studios enacted the restrictions after seeing how new online businesses were affecting DVD sales, he said.
Rodney Spriggs, president and CEO of Vintage Stock, an entertainment store with locations in Oklahoma and surrounding states, said his company dabbles in rentals and is known mostly for its trading and selection of movies. He said online sites haven't affected his business.
He predicts those sites will continue to grow. “It's here to stay, especially streaming,” Spriggs said.
O'Toole agrees online sites likely will continue to serve a purpose for shoppers seeking convenience but said there always will be customers who want something more for their money.