Almost 2,500 square feet of retail space is stocked wall-to-wall with a motley collection of DVDs, Blu-rays, and that prehistoric technology known as VHS. In the window are posters for popular movies: a huge red Z fronted by a shaggy-haired Brad Pitt, Jason Statham staring menacingly down the barrel of a gun, Kate Beckinsale bedecked in a tight black cat suit for an unidentifiable iteration of the popular Underworld series.
No this is not your neighborhood Blockbuster circa 2003, this is Patchogue’s 112 Video World circa right now.
“It’s fun working here,” said Steven Spinelli, the store’s manager. “The customers make it fun. Some people will come in just to talk to [me], and just to ask [my] experience with movies…that’s great. Where else am I gonna get [the chance to] express my opinions on movies and stuff?”
The movie and video game rental store is tucked along Long Island’s Route 112 and continues to operate seven days a week, despite Blockbuster’s recent demise. The store boasts the island’s largest collection of rare and unusual movies for rent with over 30,000 titles housed in-store and more coming in by the week.
“One of the things we offer is the items and the movies that people can’t get anywhere else,” said Spinelli. “Netflix has about 10,000 movies, we have 40,000 plus and we’re always adding to it. And a lot of stuff isn’t even available on DVD, let alone streaming, so we have them on VHS.”
Established in 1985 (the same year that the first Blockbuster store opened its doors), 112 Video World rents and sells new movie releases alongside rare and cult films. Besides holding shelves upon shelves (and in some corners of the store, piles upon piles) of movies, the store is also stocked with comics, toys, sports memorabilia and collectibles, including character figurines and action figures, a plastic bust of “300“’s King Leonidas and a huge plush Stewie Griffin perched on a shelf beside the dolls of Chucky and his bride.
“Basically, the store caters to a very, very special clientele,” said Jack Schultz, 112’s video distributor. “[And that is] people that are into movies that nobody ever heard of or wanted to hear of. It’s a very eclectic store.”
When Blockbuster announced early last month that it would be shuttering the last of its 300 remaining company-owned stores across the nation and would cease operations on its DVD-by-mail rental service by January 2014, it signified a big change in the fledgling rental industry. But there are plenty of dry eyes at 112.
“It feels pretty good,” Spinelli said of outlasting the rental giant. “I didn’t really look at them as if they were our competition because we had a lot of things they didn’t have [like] some rare movies and VHS stuff that you can’t get on DVD. Their problem was basically because they looked at it in the wrong way. Their store would’ve been four times as large as this store, but would’ve had only a quarter of the movies that we have. They didn’t really love movies, they kind of just kept it to a point where [they just kept] the popular things. So while I don’t wish that on any business, I’m not really sorry that they’re gone.”
“People are finding that they can get instant gratification for what movies they want,” he said. “It’s not only Redbox and Netflix, it’s the library. It’s bootleggers. It’s the internet. It’s all these people; it’s not just one thing, that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. Redbox is bad for us because they get new movies and they only charge a dollar. Netflix is bad because they stream into your home. Pay-per-view is bad because the same thing, you don’t have to worry about late fees or returning them. Libraries are bad because they’re free. Bootleg is bad because it doesn’t help the industry. So all those things are going against us. Where one of those items might bother a studio, they all affect us.”
One thing is certain; 112 has survived for as long as it has because it offers something that those other brands can’t deliver.
“How do we still survive when the store’s not making a profit? That’s the trick,” Spinelli said. “It’s not easy, you have to pretty much give customers – well the ones that you have – the things that you can’t get anywhere else. There’s several movies here that are not on DVD, that will never be on DVD, they’re not gonna be on Blu-ray, they’re not gonna be on Redbox, they’re not gonna be on Netflix, and we have them. The problem is just people knowing that we’re here. If not, we’re gonna end up like the drive-in and you know where they went.”
“I think the fact that we are still here and people keep telling us ‘please don’t close the store,’ they want what we have and a lot of people just don’t know [that] we exist,” said Deb Birr, who co-owns the store with her husband Rick. “And we’re doing our best to rectify that.”
According to Birr, the store has not turned a profit in the three years that she and her husband have owned it.
“Everyone has been doing their best to help us, and they do it for free,” she said. “And that’s why we’re here today trying to save the store. We’re not looking to become bazillionaires, we’re just looking to keep the store going because I don’t know what I would do without it.”