Sunday morning I was sitting in the lobby of the Loews Hotel overlooking the Santa Monica Pier having breakfast while reading the New York Times. The hotel is filled with people from across the globe. There are German and French families frolicking in the pool and teenage boys from Illinois hanging out, occasionally looking up from their iPhones long enough to see that there is a beach full of teenage girls, then back to their iPhones.
As I read about the coming economic disasters, I came across a story about one of our local businesses — Vidiots. They had a beautiful story about the changes in the movie rental industry and what steps Vidiots has taken to survive in a rapidly evolving field.
In a world where more and more video is on demand, and Netflix seems to be the dominant player, it was nice to see a local business that I support garnering publicity from such a large outlet as the New York Times.
The article focused on the ways in which Vidiots is distinguishing itself from the competition. Rather than try to undercut on price, which is usually a bad idea for a business, especially one that is up against the giant forces, Vidiots is using an old fashioned, tried-and-true method to increase sales. They are bringing people together, drawing on the sense of community and common interests to sustain their company and grow it.
The article was accompanied by a photo of people attending an event at The Annex, which is a screening room and meeting center that was built at Vidiots to house their film series, and bring people together. In the photo is the ever recognizable Jerry “Peace Activist” Rubin. He’s the only person I recognized in the photo, but I found him to be a most appropriate icon in a story about community organizing for survival.
Vidiots is surviving because they are reaching out to people and connecting. They are providing a film appreciation series, they have a lecture series, but most importantly, they are doing what the Internet only claims to do; they are creating points of contact between us.
I find it appropriate that a movie rental house is increasing its business by bringing people together for a common experience. After all, isn’t that what movies originally did and still do? That’s why so many first dates are to a movie. It’s a shared topic that allows for post movie conversation over cheeseburgers and pie. The connections that moviemakers have made over the years are what allow us to speak in a cultural shorthand.
Memorable lines are like a familiar smell, they flood you with images and feelings, you instantly recognize not just the line, but the movie, the actor and they transport you back in time. Lines like, “Adrian!” “No wire hangers!” “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” and “I’ll get you my pretty” are iconic. Those lines, and millions more like them bring us together. They remind us of the movie, the feelings we attach to them, and often who we were with when we first saw it.
Going to the movies is a time-honored tradition and we are lucky to live in the land where movies are made. We have so many great resources to learn more about the process, and to become filmmakers if we want.
The Times article about Vidiots featured other video stores and what they are doing to bring people back to the store and continuing to use their services. In Brooklyn a video rental house is going to combine food and a bar. In Chicago, one store created a series of film classes for children and adults, which was the inspiration for Vidiots to do a similar program. In West L.A. CineFile has the occasional free stand-up comedy routine.
Netflix is great, and for someone like me who doesn’t have a television and a cable provider, I like having streaming videos to watch at my convenience. The problem is that there are times where I want a specific title and it’s not available, but I can rent it from Vidiots. I also get to have the emotional and social experience of going to a store, chatting with someone about the movies, learning something of substance about the history of Hollywood and feeling connected to my community.
Streaming a video doesn’t provide any of that. So that’s why I support Vidiots and continue to rent videos and was glad to see that they had a good write up in the New York Times.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.