Christina Carter rings up rentals selected by Sandra Manriquez at the Family Video store on 38th Street in Anderson. “I’m a huge movie fan, and I like oldtime movies that they might not have on Netflix yet, so here is where I get them,” Manriquez said. Andy Knight | The Herald Bulletin
Christina Carter rings up rentals selected by Sandra Manriquez at the Family Video store on 38th Street in Anderson. “I’m a huge movie fan, and I like oldtime movies that they might not have on Netflix yet, so here is where I get them,” Manriquez said. Andy Knight | The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON — Some of the covers of DVDs lining the shelves at the Family Video store on 38th Street have faded from long-term exposure to sunlight streaming through the windows. But that doesn’t matter to Sandra Manriquez.

“My friends still laugh at me to this day because they say, ‘Where are you?’ And I’ll say, ‘I’m at the video store.’ And they’re like, ‘Those still exist?’” Manriquez said. “I’m a huge movie fan, and I like old-time movies that they might not have on Netflix yet, so here is where I get them.”

In an age where Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services have given Manriquez and her fellow movie buffs more ways than ever to watch films in their homes, video rental stores seem like relics from a bygone era. For example, a Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon, recently made news when it became the chain’s last existing store in the world.

But Family Video has survived — some would even say thrived — in an industry whose best days, many believe, are behind it. The chain, which has more than 700 stores in 19 states, mainly in the Midwest, and Canada, generated an estimated $450 million in revenue in 2017.

The chain, which has three stores in Madison County, has followed a business model that stands in contrast to its mostly defunct competitors, including Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. The company pays off all its store mortgages within five years. Also, instead of agreeing to contracts with studios to split revenue on movie rentals, Family Video has opted to buy films outright and keep all of the rental profits. Both those strategies in particular have proven to be successful in the long term. The average store in the chain brings in roughly half a million dollars annually, a figure close to what the Anderson stores have averaged in recent years, according to Rob Young, who manages both stores.

“Our prices haven’t really gone up,” Young says. “I think what makes us unique is, honestly, our customer service. I hate to sound cheesy, I really do, but from when I started, the culture that I was taught here … it’s really just a unique mixture of our culture, low prices, and a crazy amount of different choices.”

Young estimates that each Anderson store has between 4,000 and 6,000 active membership accounts, and among formats including VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray, there are more than 10,000 available titles at each store.

But there is also an intangible sense of community and nostalgia that keeps many customers coming back — even those who have streaming services. Young says he and his employees know many regulars by name, and several come in at the same time each week.

“I personally don’t mind the social interaction that happens,” said Michele Jones of Anderson as she browsed shelves looking for a video game to take home to her 5-year-old son. “You don’t get that on Netflix or on Amazon. You’re just pushing buttons on your remote. Also, I didn’t want to just stay home waiting for everyone else to come home, so this gives me something to do. I can just kind of roam a little bit, picking out what I want to watch.”

Manriquez says she has Netflix, but many of her favorite movies are older and not available on the popular service.

“I like the experience here,” she said. “It’s not always available everywhere. This is one of the last resorts where I can possibly find a movie I can’t find elsewhere.”

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