Local video rentals take a hit


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That’s Rentertainment, an Iowa City movie rental store, is hanging on by a thread.

Thanks to such modern services as Netflix and Redbox, Ross Meyer, the store’s owner will be forced to close in the next month.

“Every month, we say this might be the last one,” he said.

Meyer, who’s owned the store for five years, said a loss of revenue to such companies caused the business, 114 Y2 E. College St., to stop renting movies in June. He’s trying to make ends meet by selling videos, which he said isn’t as predictable.

It’s become a common trend in the area, with new options taking customers from more established businesses.

“More than anything, it’s more of the nature of Iowa City,” Meyer said. And new students are less likely to rent videos from stores because they are more familiar with online rentals, he said.

Meyer said the business tried to cut expenses by moving to a cheaper location more than a year ago, but the move wasn’t “enough to plug up the hole in the dam.”

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Netflix, an online and mail DVD rental company, has more than 20 million members in the United States and Canada, according to its website.

Some students said they enjoy the simplicity of Netflix rather than going out to a video store in the area.

Katharyne Dunn said she uses Redbox, but prefers Netflix.

“With Redbox, you have to leave the apartment,” the University of Iowa junior said. “Netflix is more convenient and cheaper.”

The Iowa City Public Library has seen an approximately 5 percent decrease in video loans in the last year.

“People have new sources for entertainment,” said Susan Craig, the library’s director.

To combat the decreases, she said, the library implemented a new renewal policy for videos in December. Now, patrons can renew checked-out videos once.

The library’s video and audio budget has remained the same, Craig said.

The library would love to invest in downloadable movies, she said, but licensing laws prevent it.

But not all businesses said they have suffered because of new technology.

“If anything, business has gotten better,” said Heather Shepherd, district manager of Family Video, one of the few remaining rental stores in the Iowa City area.

In fact, the company has added more than 1,000 jobs in the past year, she said.

The chain has an advantage over online rental companies, she said, because the company gets newly released movie titles much faster than Netflix and offers customers a much more personal experience.

But Clare Conway, 19, said she never rents movies from stores anymore.

Conway, a student at La James International College, said she started using Netflix in August, when she and her roommate moved into their apartment.

“It’s cheaper and also, I really like to watch seasons of shows, and a lot of times video stores will split them up,” she said. “On Netflix, you can watch them all at once.”

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