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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Video rental stores to close this spring

After 15 years of providing movie rentals to the Davis community, 49’er Video is closing on March 31.

“I’m retiring. I’ve been in business for 25 years; I’m 64 years old. And I’m just ready to retire,” said owner John Merchant.

Merchant has decided to sell his inventory rather than the company. “Knowing where the technology is going to be in five years [in this business] is very difficult, so it makes it difficult for someone to commit to a six-figure purchasing price,” Merchant said.

Merchant said that though business is still good at the Anderson Plaza store, it will be more profitable for him to sell titles individually.

“Because we have 33,000 movies here, a lot of which are very, very rare and worth a lot of money, our inventory really was worth more money sold off individually than the business was remaining open.”

The store has always sold videos through Amazon.com under the name “Davis DVD”, which is how the inventory will be sold after the store closes. Merchant said he may also continue selling online as a side project.

49’er Video specializes in rare films and has focused its 33,000 title inventory on classic, foreign and independent films. This, Merchant said, is what has always made them a competitor against corporate movie rental stores, such as Blockbuster.

“We have a demographically educated, sophisticated community in Davis and there was no one here from the video rental standpoint to service that.”

He said they moved the business from Sacramento to fill the void left in video rentals by Blockbuster’s limited titles. The store’s ceiling is decorated with streamers made from 3,000 cut up Blockbuster cards from customers.

The competition became much more real in 2001 when Merchant became involved as a plaintiff in an anti-trust lawsuit with Blockbuster and seven movies studios. 49’er alleged that Blockbuster had conspired with the movie studios to fix prices, Merchant said.

“But we did manage to settle with some of the movie studios, which brought fairness in pricing into the industry and really helped us compete actively,” Merchant said. “Ultimately, pricing leveled out and we became much more competitive.”

The F Street Blockbuster in downtown Davis is closing on April 18. On Sept. 23, Blockbuster Corporation filed for bankruptcy. The company announced on Feb. 21 that they will be sold, though they are only closing select locations.

Alex Gonzalez, a Davis resident and Blockbuster employee, said employees are unable to comment on whether or not the closure is related to the corporation’s bankruptcy.

“What we’ve been told is that our offer for renegotiation for our lease was rejected,” Gonzalez said.

However, Shel Givens, owner of the F street Blockbuster, said it was Blockbuster that rejected the lease.

Kathy Cloughesy, a former Blockbuster customer, said that the closing of 49’er Video is a much bigger loss to the community. Cloughesy’s old card is part of the ceiling decoration.

“We’re sad that he’s leaving,” she said. “He had a lot of classics and documentaries. And for me personally, it was the BBC films. Blockbuster just did the Top 40 but he had movies that you don’t get anywhere else.”

JENNIFER LISTUG can be reached at city@theaggie.org.


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