Family Video Winds Down With eBay Auction of Discs, Memorabilia

Family Video’s end is fast approaching.

The last national video rental chain, which in January announced it is closing down, is now liquidating an assortment of posters, memorabilia and other items on eBay.

The auction was supposed to end June 29, but 201 items remain up for bid or for sale on eBay as of July 2, including Family Video-logo director’s chairs (“Buy It Now” price $229.94, with a 15% quantity discount), a Family Video employee vest ($34.95), an autographed Stan Lee’s Mutants, Monsters & Marvels DVD (starting bid 99 cents, “Buy It Now” price $249.99), and dozens of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

“Yes, it’s really us,” the chain says on its eBay “shop” page. “We are the former #1 movie rental retail chain in the United States. Sadly we closed our stores in January 2021, but we still offer movies, video games and more online.”

Family Video opened its first store  — Video Movie Club — in Springfield, Ohio, in 1978. The privately-owned company ultimately grew to 800 stores, but in January announced it would begin liquidation of its remaining 250 stores, citing the pandemic as the reason.

“While we have faced digital competition from Netflix and others for years, nothing has been as devastating to our business as COVID-19,” Keith Hoogland, CEO of Highland Ventures, the Glenview, Ill.-based company that owns Family Video, said in a media statement. “We are very thankful to have been able to provide entertainment for many family movie nights.”

The chain posted a letter from Hoogland on its website shortly before noon PT on Jan. 6, stating that the impact of COVID-19 combined with the lack of fresh theatrical product “pushed us to the end of an era.”

In November 2020, the chain mounted a brief  promotional campaign called #SaveTheVideoStore to drum up consumer support. The campaign was supported by studios and Hollywood talent such as Clerks director Kevin Smith.

Other items available on eBay include Family Video T-shirts ($17.95), “Hunger Games” necklaces ($1.99 or $4.99), and a September 2020 issue of the Family Video “new release” in-store magazine (99 cents).

Family Video Liquidating Operations, Cites Ongoing Pandemic for Shutdown

Family Video, the last-standing packaged-media rental chain in the United States, is calling it quits nearly 43 years after opening its first store — Video Movie Club — in Springfield, Ohio, in 1978. The privately-owned company, which cited the ongoing pandemic for the decision, said it would begin liquidation of its remaining 250 stores offering deals on DVD, Blu-ray Disc movies and related merchandise. At its peak, Family Video operated 800 stores.

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“While we have faced digital competition from Netflix and others for years, nothing has been as devastating to our business as COVID-19,” Keith Hoogland, CEO of Highland Ventures, the Glenview, Ill.-based company that owns Family Video, said in a media statement. “We are very thankful to have been able to provide entertainment for many family movie nights.”

The chain posted a letter from Hoogland on its website shortly before noon PT on Jan. 6, stating that the impact of COVID-19 combined with the lack of fresh theatrical product “pushed us to the end of an era.”

He expressed special thanks to Family Video employees and customers, noting, “Without you, we would not have been the last man standing in our industry.”

Last November, the chain mounted a last-ditch promotional campaign called #SaveTheVideoStore to drum up consumer support. The campaign was supported by studios and Hollywood talent such as Clerks director Kevin Smith.

“Our plan with this campaign is to not hide from the stark reality that our business has been affected by streaming, COVID and just about everything else this year,” senior brand manager Derek Dye told Media Play News at the time. “We are hoping to pull at the heartstrings of physical media fans, video store fanatics and movie lovers as a whole to support us in this difficult time for our business.”

The campaign ran Nov. 9 to 22, boosted by a video of support for the chain from Smith, whose Clerks famously included scenes at a video store. The major push, though, was at the store level, Dye told Media Play News in November.

“We are going for a very grassroots initiative with our stores making signage, posters, painting the windows of our stores to get the word out,” Dye said. “We think that strategy along with the help of media outlets could help us immensely to drive traffic and awareness to our stores.”

In early 2019, Family Video began selling cannabidiol (CBD) products in more than 70 stores in Michigan and 250 locations nationwide. At the time, the chain still consisted of about 700 stores.

As COVID-19 Surges, Black Friday Crowds Don’t

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed this year’s Black Friday retail shopping frenzy, in which hordes of shoppers typically camp out overnight waiting for stores to open early on the morning after Thanksgiving — or, in recent years, start shopping right after they finish their turkey dinners.

Not this year.

With COVID-19 surging in what health experts are calling a third wave of the disease, none of the big retailers opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day — not even Walmart, which used to be open all day, or Target and Best Buy, which opened for business in the late afternoon or at midnight.

The big retailers also began offering their deep discounts several weeks before Black Friday, often targeting online shoppers with Web-only specials. And the year’s hottest gift item, Sony’s new PlayStation 5 video game console, saw gamers glued to the Internet to watch for alerts on Twitter and other social media channels about the next wave of consoles available at the various retailers, mostly for online purchase.

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“One thing that is happening, and has been happening for awhile, is the past couple of years, we’ve seen Black Friday deals moving more and more online,” Amir Neto, director of Lutgert College of Business at Florida Gulf Coast University, told USA Today. “This year, there are more incentives to maintain or expand this trend.”

Adobe Analytics on Nov. 27 reported that online spending on Thanksgiving Day rose by nearly 22% to reach a new record of $5.1 billion, from $4.1 billion last year. The research firm said November and December online sales are expected to jump 33% this year, totaling $189 billion, including $10.3 billion on Black Friday.

Aside from the big retail players, Family Video, the last remaining national chain of dedicated video stores, sent out an email early Friday morning offering discounts of up to 75% on Warner Bros. DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HD titles, including Aquaman, The Dark Knight, Inception, Doctor Sleep, 12 Strong and Annabelle. “You will not find better Black Friday deals on Blu-rays, DVDs, and 4K Blu-rays from Warner Bros. anywhere else!” the Family Video email read, noting that the sale ends Nov. 30.

Meanwhile, with physical stores having offered discounts all week, reports on Black Friday itself suggest the early rush to physical retail stores is more of a trickle this year. A Target store in Costa Mesa, Calif., was practically empty shortly after 7 a.m. on Nov. 27. “It looks like any other day,” said one observer.

Target is running a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on books, movies and music. Blu-rays and DVDs could be had for as low as $4, $7 and $9. Signs were placed not only in the electronics area, but in some stores displays were put in the clothing section in the center of the store and at checkout. One customer in Mission Viejo, Calif., noted that the sales weren’t as prevalent as previous years.

At a Costa Mesa Best Buy, there were fewer than two dozen people waiting in a socially distant line, a far cry from prior years.

In Oceanside, Calif., a Walmart was a little busier, but the traditional DVD and Blu-ray Disc “dump bins,” featuring catalog movie titles priced as low as $2 to $5, were conspicuously absent. “It’s really slow,” a clerk said.

The movie aisle at an Oceanside, Calif. Walmart on Black Friday 2020, shortly before 9 a.m.

Chicago resident Maria Lopez, who often shops on Black Friday, said she was only visiting one store this year out of concerns of contracting the coronavirus. Lopez bought a 42-inch television from Best Buy.
“It’s so sad,” Lopez told the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve been out since 6 a.m. and there were no long lines. It’s definitely not the same like years prior.”

And yet the National Retail Federation earlier in the week  forecast that total holiday sales during November and December would be up by as much as 5.2% from the same period last year, generating $755.3 billion to $766.7 billion in revenue. The data, which excludes automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, compares with a 4% increase in 2019, and an average holiday sales gain of 3.5% over the past five years.

“We know this holiday season will be unlike any other, and retailers have planned ahead by investing billions of dollars to ensure the health and safety of their employees and customers,” Matthew Shay, CEO of the retail trade group, said in a statement. “Consumers have shown they are excited about the holidays and are willing to spend on gifts that lift the spirits of family and friends after such a challenging year.”

NRF expects that online and other non-store sales, which are included in the total, will increase between 20% and 30% to between $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion, up from $168.7 billion last year.

“Given the pandemic, there is uncertainty about consumers’ willingness to spend, but with the economy improving most have the ability to spend,” said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.

Redbox is participating in the Black Friday discounting frenzy with specials across all its platforms, physical as well as online. Through the weekend, the retailer is offering customers who rent two discs at its more than 40,000 kiosks 50 cents off, as well as “price drops” on digital rentals through Redbox On Demand. Redbox also is hosting a used movie sale at “select kiosks,” selling off previously viewed copies of films such as Trolls World Tour ($3.99), The Tax Collector ($5.99) and Justice League ($3.99).

On the streaming front, NBCUniversal as a Black Friday special offered 20% off access to the Peacock subscription streaming service, while Hulu launched a discounted $1.99 monthly promotion at midnight on Thanksgiving Day. The campaign gives new and returning subscribers 12-month access to the ad-supported Hulu option, which amounts to a $48 savings over the recently reduced $5.99 monthly fee (from $7.99). The ad-free subscription plan remains priced at $11.99 monthly.

Additional reporting by John Latchem and Stephanie Prange

Family Video Launches Promo to #SaveTheVideoStore

As it struggles during the pandemic, Family Video, the last major video store chain, is launching a promotional campaign called #SaveTheVideoStore to drum up consumer support.

With the help of studios and Hollywood talent such as Clerks director Kevin Smith, Family Video is bowing the campaign to celebrate physical media and generate nostalgia for the video store.

“Our plan with this campaign is to not hide from the stark reality that our business has been affected by streaming, COVID and just about everything else this year,” said senior brand manager Derek Dye. “We are hoping to pull at the heartstrings of physical media fans, video store fanatics and movie lovers as a whole to support us in this difficult time for our business.”

The campaign runs Nov. 9 to 22, boosted by a video of support for the chain from Smith, whose Clerks famously included scenes at a video store. But the major push is at the store level.

“We are going for a very grassroots initiative with our stores making signage, posters, painting the windows of our stores to get the word out,” Dye said. “We think that strategy along with the help of media outlets could help us immensely to drive traffic and awareness to our stores.”

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Battered by the pandemic and other hardships, the chain has shut down about 200 of its approximately 500 stores. It now has 300 stores in 17 states.

“It’s been a difficult year,” Dye said.

The nostalgic nature of the video store has not been lost on pop culture, even at a streaming service that is supplanting it, Netflix. Family Video has figured in previous seasons and will be featured prominently in the next season of Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”

Family Video T-shirt

The chain has been successfully selling Family Video retro-looking T-shirts to supplement income and capitalize on the nostalgia for video stores. Family Video has sold more than 700 of the T-shirts at $19.78 (1978 was the year the chain was established). In support of the new initiative, the chain is also selling a new  #SaveTheVideoStore shirt.

“Everybody has a fun memory of video stores,” Dye said.

He hopes the public will get the message that this institution is in trouble and needs fans to come in and support it.

The plea of the campaign, Dye said: “We need your help to save the video store.”

Family Video Clearing Out Used DVDs, Blu-ray Discs

Family Video, the sole remaining national chain of video stores, is blowing out previously viewed DVDs and Blu-ray Discs for as little as $1.98.

“With our used DVD and Blu-ray clearance sale, you can grow your movie collection without breaking the bank,” the company says.

The sale, which runs through June 13, features 31 Blu-ray Discs at $3.98 and $4.98. Titles include The Equalizer 2, The Meg, Skyscraper, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and A Quiet Place.

Also on sale are 46 different DVD titles, ranging in price from $1.98 (Vengeance: A Love Story; Killing Gunther; Hands of Stone) to $3.98 (The Happytime Murders; First Man; Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch).

For orders totaling $25 or more, the company is offering free shipping.

Family Video Enters Pot Business

Now you can make it a DVD movie/pot night.

Family Video, the nation’s largest (and last-standing) packaged-media rental chain, has begun selling marijuana-based products in select stores.

The Glenview, Ill.-based chain reportedly is selling cannabidiol (CBD) products in more than 70 stores in Michigan and 250 locations nationwide. Privately-held Family Video operates about 700 stores.

(Photo credit: Tanya Moutzalias | MLive.com)

Cannabidiol is an active ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant. It reportedly can help treat some medical conditions such as pain, insomnia and anxiety.

More importantly, CBD is non-psychoactive, which means that it will not get the user high.

CBD products (priced from $3 to $25) include sprays, oil, lip balm, gummies, muscle rub, water and pet oil, among others.

Cannabidiol became legal to sell in the United States in 2018 after President Trump signed the Farm Bill legalizing industrial hemp.

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“There are a lot of people that use CBD to relax, and guess what, that’s what a lot of people use movies for,” Levi Dinkla, president of enterprise development at Highland Ventures Ltd., Family Video’s corporate parent, told MLive.com.

The decision to enter the pot business came from Family Video CEO Keith Hoogland (son of founder Charlie Hoogland), who has used CBD for health issues, according to Dinkla.

Hoogland is no stranger to diversifying the chain’s product line-up as the traditional video store business disappears. With Family Video owning most of its storefront locations, it has licensed its real estate to more than 500 third-party tenants, including pizza, fitness, wireless and water vendors.

Family Video obtains its CBD products from Natural Native CBD, a Norman, Okla.-based supplier that partners with hemp farmers in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Maine and currently has about 1,500 acres under cultivation.

 “We see our role as being there as an educational resource for communities,” Dinkla said. “This is something that really made a difference and might be able to help people.”

And Family Video’s bottom line.

“They’re coming in to buy CBD, and then they go, ‘I haven’t been in a video store in a long time,’ and then they set up an account,” Dinkla said. “Customers have really resonated with it.”

Family Video Survival Secret: Diversity & Landlord Smarts

In an over-the-top video market, the traditional video store has all but disappeared. With the exception of (shrinking) mall-based f.y.e. stores, standalone retailers selling and renting movies and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray Disc are a novelty.

But Glenview, Ill.-based Family Video – which celebrated 40 years of business last October – continues to survive, reportedly generating $450 million in revenue in 2017 operating about 700 stores in rural areas throughout the Midwest, Southwest and Northeast.

“Eventually the video business will have to go away, but people were telling me that back in 2000,” Keith Hoogland, president of Family Video, told RogerEbert.com in a rare interview late last year. “In 2010, Blockbuster and Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video all closed. Now it’s 2018 and we’re still standing.”

Family Video president Keith Hoogland

Hoogland may profess a love for nostalgic movies like Rocky, Top Gun and Caddyshack – which Netflix doesn’t stream – while offering consumers without high-speed Internet an old-school home entertainment option (with late fees!). But that’s just window dressing.

The son of Family Video founder Charlie Hoogland, Keith is not tone deaf to the realities of brick-and-mortal video. The market generated about $317 million in 2018 – down 18.5% from 2017, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group.

Peruse the website of Family Video parent – Highland Ventures Ltd. – and a shrewd business strategy emerges highlighting the chain’s ability to survive when high-profile competitors Blockbuster, Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery shut their doors long ago.

Highland owns the property most Family Video stores and more than 500 third-party tenants operate from. And it’s acquiring more beachheads.

“Family Video is essentially a real estate company,” Douglas Green with Philadelphia-based real estate company, MSC Retail, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s pretty brilliant.”

Highland’s Legacy Commercial Property (LCP) unit manages more than 700 properties in 19 states with commercial real estate valued at more than $650 million.

Franchise brands include Marco’s Pizza, Stay Fit 24 (which Family Video launched in 2008), Total Wireless (2018), and kiosk-based Highland Pure Water & Ice (2017).

LCP claims to generate $2 million in accretive revenue just negotiating more than 100 lease transactions a year. It also negotiates construction contracts and manages tenant buildouts.

“The LCP Team is growing and currently seeking to double over the next 12 months,” says the website.

Hoogland says that as the video retail/rental business has slowed, the company downsized floorspace dedicated to packaged media and leased it to businesses that mix well with video – like pizza.

Highland is now the largest Marco’s Pizza franchisee.

“I’ve got static rent. It isn’t moving,” Hoogland said. “Then I realize that I don’t need 7,000 feet. So, I rent out 2,000 to another business, perhaps Jimmy John’s or Subway. My rent just went down 15%, along with my common area maintenance. That’s what we call rightsizing. I control my rent by the size of the building, and the money I make from renting out space becomes part of the profit of the business.”

Hoogland said that as the home video rental market cooled, Blockbuster couldn’t afford to remain open due to escalating leases on store locations it didn’t own. Family Video revenue, Hoogland said, only began to decline over the past two years.

“That’s when we began rightsizing,” he said. “Most of our 700 lessees have another business right next to them.”

Hoogland said the move toward business operator/landlord smoothed over financial lenders (i.e. banks) increasingly uncomfortable with the shrinking video store landscape.

“Banks don’t like lending money to video stores because they lose their value quickly, but they love loaning money to real estate,” he said. “As we kept rolling, we mortgaged buildings to fund our expansion.”

 

 

Extending Black Friday in an OTT World

When you rent and sell packaged media in a streaming world, Black Friday (Nov. 22) becomes a mandatory weeklong sales event. Especially for the country’s last-standing brick-and-mortar video rental store.

Family Video, the privately-owned Glenview, Ill.-based chain of more than 700 stores operating in 29 states, launched special deals on DVD and Blu-ray Disc titles (new and used) beginning Nov. 19 through Nov. 26.

With DVDs priced from $4 and Blu-ray priced from $5, Family Video is also offering 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles priced from $12.

Even better: You don’t have to live in the Midwest or South to partake in the sale. FamilyVideo.com will ship (U.S. Postal) for free on any size order through Dec. 16.

The news caught the attention of local NBC television affiliate WYFF4 in Greenville, S.C., which sent an incredulous news crew (“People still go to the video store?”) to a Family Video location in Mauldin to document.

Said one customer, “Man, I haven’t been to a store like this in 10 years. I had to Google why does Family Video even exist?”

And with good reason.

Packaged-media rental revenue from brick-and-mortar stores dropped more than 18% in the third quarter to $71.5 million compared to $87.5 million in the previous-year period, according to DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group. The tally is down almost 34% from the first three months of 2017.

As Black Friday approaches even big box retailers such as Target are feeling the heat from over-the-top video. Circling a freestanding point-of-purchase display of discounted animated winter holiday DVDs near the gift cards at a Target in Greer, S.C., a mother and her young kids scanned the titles – on her cell phone.

“No, I think Hulu has that,” said the mom, who left empty-handed.

Family Video Pushes Online Sales of Used DVDs, Blu-ray Discs

As the holidays approach, Family Video has sent out an email blast promoting an online-only sale of used DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

The retailer is selling used copies of several recent hits, including Ant-Man and the Wasp, The First Purge and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, at prices starting at $6.49.

“All used DVDs and Blu-rays are professionally refurbished and backed by our 100% guarantee,” the retailer says. Discs come “complete with art and case. Digital codes are not included. Some used movies may not include extras or special features.”

The latest sale includes 50 Blu-ray Discs and 81 DVDs.

The Blu-ray Disc selection includes a handful of top sellers still on the latest week NPD VideoScan sales charts (for the week ended Nov. 10), including Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (No. 6), Skyscraper (No. 10), and Solo: A Star Wars Story (No. 7), priced at $8.49 each.

Older titles such as Life of the Party, Tag, Rampage, Ready Player One and Ocean’s 8 are $6.99, while others, including A Quiet Place and I Feel Pretty, are $9.99.

See the full selection of used Blu-ray Discs here.

On the DVD side, current chart entries Ant-Man and the Wasp (No. 3) and Hotel Transvylvania 3 (No. 5) are $7.99, while consumers can buy used copies of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Solo: A Star Wars Story for $6.49.

See the full selection of used DVDs here.

Family Video Movie Club is the last surviving national video rental chain. Based in Glenview, Illinois, Family Video has more than 775 stores in the United States and Canada, concentrated in the Midwest. The chain also operates an e-commerce site where customers can buy video games as well as used DVDs and Blu-ray Discs.

Family Video was founded in 1978 by Charlie Hoogland and remains a privately held, family-owned business. The company owns the land on which its stores sit and also operates several sister companies, including Marco’s Pizza and Stay Fit 24 fitness centers.

Halloween, Horror Titles Get Big Push on Disc, Digital, and Streaming

With the Halloween holiday looming, several players in the home entertainment industry are mounting promotions to push horror and Halloween titles, both on disc and on digital.

Movies Anywhere, the multi-studio digital movie “locker” that lets consumers store their digital films in the cloud and access them at will on various devices, has sent out a “Tis the Season” email blast to registered users with “It,” “The Omen” and “Zombieland” prominently featured in the body of the email.

A link sends consumers to a big, colorful menu of titles, in categories such as “Vintage Horror” (Dracula, The Wolf-Man, The House of Wax, Village of the Damned); “Extreme Horror” (Slender Man, The Strangers, the new Truth or Dare movie with Lucy Hale, and the Jeff Goldblum remake of The Fly); and “Scary Slashers” (I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original Psycho and the 2009 remake of Friday the 13th).

Milder films for kids and families are grouped together as “Fun Family Frights” (Toy Story of Terror, The Little Vampire, Monster House, Hotel Transylvania 3) and “Spooky Cute” (Casper, Scooby-Doo The Movie, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas”).

Earlier in October, the Family Video retail chain had a “blowout” sale of more than 120 Warner Bros. horror films on Blu-ray Disc and DVD, at prices starting at $3.88. Titles included in the sale were The Little Shop of Horrors, Stephen King’s It, and “Final Destination,” “Tim Burton,” “The Conjuring” and “The Nightmare on Elm Street” collections.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of zombie classic Night of the Living Dead, Fandango’s on-demand video service FandangoNow Oct. 1 launched a list of the 25 “freshes” zombie movies, with the George Romero film taking the top spot.

The list was curated by movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on the movies’ Tomatometer scores. (A movie gets a “Fresh” designation when at least 60% of its critic reviews are positive.)

On Oct. 1 only, fans were able to rent any (or all) of the zombie movies on the list at a discounted rate of $1 off the regular price when using the promo code LIVINGDEAD50 at checkout.

On the streaming front, Parrot Analytics is out with a list of the most in-demand horror titles available on subscription SVOD services such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu as well as regular linear TV.

At the top of the list is the “American Horror Story” franchise, which according to Parrot between Oct. 1 and Oct. 20 generated 74.8 million Demand Expressions.

Demand Expressions are a proprietary metric used by Parrot Analytics to measure global demand for TV content. The metric draws from a wide variety of data sources, including video streaming, social media activity, photo sharing, blogging, commenting on fan and critic rating platforms, and downloading and streaming via peer-to-peer protocols and file sharing sites.

No. 2 was “Walking Dead,” with 70.4 million Demand Expressions.

“Fear the Walking Dead” was a distant No. 3, with 20.9 million Demand Expressions, followed at No. 4 by the new Netflix series “The Haunting of Hill House” (18 million Demand Expressions) and, at No. 5, by “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (16 million Demand Expressions.