America’s last major video rental store chain has finally yelled “Cut!” on its brick-and-mortar operation. Family Video, which operates some 200 stores in 17 Midwest and Southern states, announced this week that it’s closing all physical locations after four decades in the business.
“Today, I have to make the difficult announcement that we are closing all Family Video locations,” company chief Keith Hoogland wrote in an open letter announcing the move. “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. … Surviving 10 years longer than the Big 3, Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video, we were among the few that started with Beta, moved on to VHS and remained a part of the DVD & Blu-Ray Era.”
Family Video opened its first store in 1978, but traces its roots back to Hoogland’s grandfather’s company — Midstates Appliance & Supply — which opened in 1946.
According to the company’s website, Midstates became a distributor in 1977 for the first supplier of Hollywood films on videocassette, but “few people were willing to pay the asking price for home versions of popular movies.” After the company got stuck with a large quantity of videos, Keith Hoogland’s father saw a business opportunity in renting them out.
The younger Hoogland took over the company in 1995 and eventually grew it into the world’s largest privately owned video rental chain. At its peak, Family Video had some 800 stores and 10,000 employees.
But the internet and streaming services like Netflix have made the video rental business obsolete. Industry leader Blockbuster Video went from a peak of more than 9,000 stores in 2004 to filing for bankruptcy in 2010.
Today, only a single Blockbuster remains in Bend, Ore., and it seems to exist as much as a curiosity, tourist attraction and online source for T-shirts and other souvenirs as it does as a functioning store.
The shop recently teamed up with Airbnb to let visitors hold sleepovers, and was also the subject of a recent documentary called “The Last Blockbuster.” (Ironically, the film is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.)
As for Family Video, the chain stopped renting videos this week, but plans to keep all stores open until they sell off all merchandise, from DVDs and Blu-Rays to popcorn supplies and in-store gumball machines. And the company’s website isn’t closing, but will continue to sell movies, T-shirts and entertainment memorabilia like autographed movie posters.
“I am extremely grateful to our employees and customers that were instrumental in Family Video’s success,” Hoogland wrote in his farewell letter. “Without you, we would not have been the last man standing in our industry.”