By Alex J. Rhowuniong
Endangered industry: How the last video stores on Guam survive in the streaming era
Readily available online streaming media service providers such as Netflix, Prime, Hulu and others are mainly responsible for the shutdown of video rental stores and the fall of Blockbuster was largely regarded as the end of an era for the video industry. But while DVDs are quietly becoming relics of the past, some video rental shops have found ways to stay open on Guam. UA Video in Mangilao, Green Video in Maite and Star Movies in Ritidian remain the destinations for some movie buffs.
And believe it or not, UA Video continues thrive in the digital age.
What’s their secret?
“We do have certain old people, manåmkò, who still have not adapted to online movies,” Zaria Miyasaki, a store clerk at UA Video, told the Pacific Island Times.
While their customers are aware of web-based movie streaming services, they still prefer the connection with the real world. “They like coming to this video store to find new movies and to talk to us, Miyasaki said. “They like the interaction, especially the old ones who stay home most of the time because they’re retired.”
UA Video opens Mondays through Fridays, from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. On weekends, the store gets really busy from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“We have been here for a long time,” said the 27-year-old Miyasaki, “Since videos, then those changed to DVDs — even before I was born.”
Another store that has survived the digital takeover is Green Video in Maite, which has been in business for 28 years. But Green Video can’t say current business is as good as it was during the pre-digital period. To stay afloat, the store has expanded its business by adding beverages and ink cartridges to its product offerings.
According to the store owner, Guam had the highest number of video rentals stores per capita in the nation back in the 1990s. Every neighborhood used to have video rentals competing for customers. The streaming services started to affect Guam stores around 2007. That’s when the decline began.
Blockbuster’s 23-year run on Guam ended in April 2012. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in September 2010 after losing the competition to Netflix. The world’s last Blockbuster store that remains open is in Australia. On Guam, most of the video rental shops have since shuttered up.
Star Movies in Ritidian, a 5-minute drive from the Andersen Air Force front gate, is another survivor. Their customer base is a mix of both young and old. The unreliable internet service in the area is a blessing in disguise for Star Movies. Due to weak – sometimes nonexistent — internet signals in Ritidian, renting DVDs beats online streaming.
“Most customers don’t have internet in this area,” said Katrina Huricks, store clerk at Star Movies.
Huricks said the shop owner is anticipating to close down the shop in a few years, and convert the business it into a restaurant. “But we will stay open as long as we can,” Huricks said, adding that superb customer service is key to staying afloat just a little bit more.
Huricks, a Yigo resident, said another video store owner in Yigo recently came to Star Movies offering to sell his own business, which he plans to close down soon.
Star Movies business hours have been shortened, from opening at 9 a.m. then 10:30 a.m., and now from noon to 10:30 p.m.
Six years ago, she said, Star Movies would easily make a fortune each night. But sales have been drastically slowing down for these endangered stores.
At UA Video, Miyasaki believes another reason they’re still in the game is because they get their new movies faster than Netflix and Hulu. “I have Netflix and Hulu,” she said. “But Netflix does not get the movies as fast as we do because they have their original movies. So they try to bring out theirs first.”
The small titles that do not make it to the movie theaters go to Netflix faster, she said. Big production outfits will try to make their money first in the theaters and with the DVDs before going to the streaming services.
“We usually try to get the new movies out—two to three weeks before Netflix does,” Miyasaki also said. “So, we do get new movies every week.”
Since most of the DVD rentals on Guam have either closed or are about to close down, UA Video is visited by customers from all over the island— from Dededo to Merizo.
“Our customers are very dynamic, including Micronesians. They love Korean dramas. It’s very dramatic. Love is very strong,” Miyasaki said. “Crying is strong. Korean movies are usually English sub-titled.”
Video collectors also go to the Mangilao store to buy DVDs right off the shelves.
Click here to subscribe to our digital edition