By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
Bad news, movie fans: Cullman’s last major movie rental franchise is officially calling it quits.
After several years in Cullman, the Blockbuster video store on Second Avenue SW is set to close in approximately three months. The Cullman location is one of 300 being shuttered nationwide, dropping the number of remaining Blockbuster stores to just 500 in the U.S. Three years ago there were more than 1,700 Blockbuster locations in operation.
The remaining DVDs at the store are being liquidated now, with the location set to shut down completely on April 7.
Once Blockbuster closes, the only remaining options for brick and mortar movie rentals will be locally-owned shops. Cullman’s other movie rental franchise, Movie Gallery, called it quits nearly two years ago and shuttered its two local stores on the north and south sides of town.
Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce President Leah Bolin said its a shame jobs will be lost and a longtime local business will be closing soon. But, she noted the closure is representative of a shift in that industry as a whole, not a reflection of the local economy.
“Anytime a local business has to shut its doors that has a negative impact on our community, and what this does do is make us aware of the power of the internet,” she said. “In order to compete with internet sales it is important for our consumers and our citizens to make a conscious effort to shop local.”
With competition from online movie and TV streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon adding more subscribers everyday — plus the rise of movie rental kiosks like Redbox — brick and mortar chains such as Blockbuster have struggled to remain competitive in recent years.
Redbox has nearly 35,000 kiosks nationwide, including several in the City of Cullman. Blockbuster has followed suit with their own kiosk systems dubbed Blockbuster Express a few years ago, though they have failed to find the mass ubiquity that Redbox enjoys. The popular online movie streaming service Netflix has also grown to include more than 33 million subscribers, not to mention the millions more who use similar services.
Though the big franchises are dropping left and right, longtime Movie Factory owner Donna Garrett said she believes her small business — which manages movie rental stores in Cullman and Hanceville — has found a niche for long-term viability. The secret? Personalized service and a diversity of offerings. In addition to movies, the locally owned rental shops also have tanning booths and accessories, which Garrett said keeps a steady stream of loyal customers coming back.
“We’re doing really well and have a great clientele. We always get the new movies in, be it special orders or anything we can do to make sure our customers are happy,” she said. “We sell movies, buy movies and have 14 tanning beds between our two locations. Folks can come in, tan, and pick up a movie before they head home.”
Considering Movie Factory will soon be one of the few options left in the area, Garrett said she’s already planning to order additional copies of new releases to try and accommodate customers left behind by the big chains.
“We will definitely increase our new release amounts and availability to try and keep giving the best service we can possibly give to our customers,” she said. “Plus we’re able to get movies before services like Redbox, because we’re not tied to those large distribution deals like that.”
* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.