In movie rentals, Family Video rises above the rest

Ryan Young

Family Video on East Main Street is the only movie rental store within five miles of campus.

The distance is relatively small, but the next closest locations in Stow are just far enough away that Kent State students do most of their video renting at the Kent Family Video, part of the largest privately owned video and game rental chain in the United States.

“Probably 20 percent or more of our accounts at the Kent store are students,” John Snyder, district manager of Family Video in Ohio, said. “The students won’t drive over there (to Stow) unless they have something we don’t.”

Snyder said the company pays close attention to market specifics and demographics when opening a new store.

Over the last few years, the video business paradigm has shifted and negatively impacted Blockbuster, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Sept. 23. Chapter 11 bankruptcies occur when the debtor still holds possession of its assets and has no limits to the amount of debt, according to

Blockbuster is now attempting to reduce debt by closing storefronts and restructuring financially. By the end of 2010, according an article from, Blockbuster will have closed 960 stores, which is about 22 percent, creating less competition for other chains in the market.

The Kent Blockbuster closed more than two years ago.

But even more challenges may lie ahead, according to a 2010 Nielson report on video rentals and consumer spending.

About 34 percent of video-renting households are now renting from kiosks, creating a newly invigorated competitor for Blockbuster and the storefront-only Family Video. In addition to kiosks, Netflix, the world’s leading Internet subscription service, is making for stiffer competition for the bigger chains with online renting.

And in 2009, consumers spent $20 billion on pre-recorded content, down about 5 percent from 2008, according to the Entertainment Merchants Association.

But neither Netflix nor rental stores offer the around-the-clock availability and locations of a kiosk.

“I think it’s really convenient,” said Erik Fountaine, who was recently returning a movie at a Redbox outside Acme in Kent. “If it wasn’t right here, I wouldn’t use it.”

This convenience has inspired Blockbuster to invest in kiosks, even placing one at Sheetz in Kent, directly across the street from Acme’’s Redbox.

But even when faced with 24-hour competition, rental stores maintain their atmosphere is worth the trip.

“The difference starts with the customer service we provide,” Snyder said. “We have thousands of movies, where, at Redbox, maybe only about 500 or so can fit inside the kiosk.”

Contact Ryan Young at [email protected].