Streaming services have seemed to replaced DVD and Blu-ray in recent years, but Family Video District Manager Sarah Bednar believes the franchise would have survived if not for the coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID just killed us,” Bednar said. “We didn’t bounce back, unfortunately. It’s a sad thing that the whole industry is kind of dying.”
On Monday, Family Video employees throughout its 20-state service region learned the company will close Feb. 28, inventory permitting.
During the pandemic, Bednar said, stores took a huge hit after closing for two months in spring 2020.
Bednar manages stores in Faribault, Mankato, Rochester and Hutchinson, and two each in Wisconsin and Iowa. The four remaining Minnesota stores outlasted the Owatonna store, which closed in September 2019, and the New Ulm store, which closed last September. All its stores, 300 locations in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and North Carolina, will close throughout the Midwestern U.S. down to Texas. Family Video’s umbrella company, Highland Ventures, will continue operating Marco’s Pizza and its fitness center, StayFit-24, Bednar said.
Stores have already begun discounting items in preparation for going out of business. Stores like the one in Faribault, located at 712 4th St. NW, have all-natural cannabidiol (CBD) products and concessions to sell in addition to movies and games.
42 years of movie rentals
According to its website, Family Video opened its first location under the name Video Movie Club in Springfield, Illinois in 1978. Locations popped up across 20 states and Canada, at one point totaling 800 stores. This made Family Video the largest movie and game rental chain in the U.S.
Keith Hoogland, who assumed presidency of the company from his father, Charlie, in 1995, shared an announcement of the closures at familyvideo.com.
"We have enjoyed being part of our employees' and customers' lives and communities for the last 42 years," Hoogland wrote. "As I look back, there are so many great memories and accomplishments. What began as a handful of 500 square-foot video rental locations, grew to 800 locations with up to 7,000 square feet of video rental and retail."
Hoogland went on to say that Family Video outlasted the "big three" movie rentals, Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and Hollywood Video, by a decade. The chain not only started out with Beta and VHS rentals but continued operations through the DVD and Blu-ray era.
Like Bednar, Hoogland blamed COVID-19's impact for store closures. The pandemic had not only contributed to fewer customers, but fewer movie releases, he said.
"I am extremely thankful to our employees and customers that were instrumental in Family Video's success," Hoogland said in the announcement. "Without you, we would not have been the last man standing in our industry."
The video chain chugged along far longer than the larger and more well-known Blockbuster. While Blockbuster launched in 1985 — Family Video opened its doors a full seven years earlier — and was sold to Dish Network in 2010. All 300 company-owned stores closed in 2014.