We’ve already seen Hollywood Video and the titan that was Blockbuster close their franchises down a decade ago, taking countless nights of nostalgia with them. And now Family Video has become a victim of circumstance and are closing the remaining 300 stores in the U.S.
Last fall, the chain did a round of cuts and closed half of their stores but the remaining stores are now following.
In a statement from president and owner of Family Video Keith Hoogland, told customers and employees that, “I have to make the difficult announcement that we are closing all Family Video locations. The impact of COVID-19, not only in foot traffic, but also in the lack of movie releases, pushed us to the end of an era.”
You can read the full statement below:
Family Video began in 1978 renting out Beta discs in Glenview, Illinois, and eventually grew to 800 stores nationwide. They began opening in more rural areas, suburbs, and smaller cities to cater to those residents and eventually made their way into bigger cities, as they grew to compete with Blockbuster, which was founded in 1985.
Even if you haven’t been to a video store recently, be it for streaming or covid or whatever other reason, odds are you remember visiting them at some point in your life and probably when you were a child where the movies in the kids’ section rented either free or incredibly cheap. I frequented the Family Video that was about four or five blocks from the house where I grew up. I watched the transition from VHS tapes to DVDs and later to blu-rays and from being able to rent an entire N64 gaming system to seeing Playstation and Xbox games available to rent. And, if you were of-age and so-inclined, there was the adult section tucked behind a wall in the back corner.
The first thought is that the chain is suffering greatly due to the ever growing catalogue of streaming services. That’s been an idea since the inception of Netflix that it would kill the video store and would damage the market for physical media purchases or rentals overal. While the ever growing list of streaming services did take a large cut into the video store, the final blows would come at the hand of closures of stores and movie studios from covid-19.
In fall of 2020, Family Video launched the promotional hashtag “#SaveTheVideoStore” complete with t-shirts and a backing from grassroots director Kevin Smith, known to feature video store scenes in his movies.
While the stores are going through their liquidation sales, the workers took the window paint markers that they would normally use to advertise sales or to do some festive art for the holidays and they wrote “#SaveTheVideoStore” on their windows instead. It may be too little too late for Family Video and all of their employees, but the sentiment is still there.
I had a friend send me a newslink about the Family Video stores closing all of their doors. I hated to say I wasn’t surprised but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t bummed about it. I did make the rounds to the three remaining stores closest to me, even driving out a half hour to get to one to take bittersweet advantage of the movie sales. Not like I could go rent one I’d want to see anymore that hadn’t hit one of the twenty-or-so streaming services available. I made that venture on a Wednesday afternoon and heard multiple employees talking about how they had just found out about the closures that previous Monday- two days prior. I sympathized with them because I recalled learning that the movie theater that I worked for was filing for bankruptcy one night while I was casually scrolling through Facebook and saw a story about it posted by the local news network.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hoogland recalled his father speaking about their business, “I don’t know how long video is going to last,” and while it may have been limping along in recent years, the state of the pandemic was the final blow.