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The Power of the Individual

6 Mar, 2005 By: Kurt Indvik

It's been a somber week for the home video retailing industry.

Last Thursday, March 3, George Atkinson, regarded as the “father” of the video rental retail business, passed away in his home in Northridge, Calif.

And last Monday, Feb. 28, Bob Edwards, a well regarded and quintessential indie retailer, died in Greensboro, N.C.

The passing of these gentlemen serves as a reminder of the simple fact that what we call an “industry” has been built on a foundation left by individuals. It isn't about DVD or VHS or high definition or digital downloading, although these are the technological bricks to the business; every industry is about people and their own personal commitment to their businesses, their employees and their industry.

Every industry has its founders, and George Atkinson was the video rental industry's founding father. He may not have set out with that in mind when he decided in the fall of 1977 to take up Andre Blay's offer to buy videocassettes of movies Blay (another “founding father”) had secured rights to from Fox, and then turn around and rent them. He was probably just thinking it was a great entrepreneurial opportunity. But what truly made him earn the title of “father” to this business today was his willingness to go to the legal mat with the studios, fighting for the right to rent those movies. Again, it probably wasn't so much that he saw this as his mission in life, but his passion for the possibility of the business and the courage to take a personal risk to make it happen, resulting in the creation of what is now a multibillion-dollar industry, a business that is responsible for tens of thousands of people's livelihoods.

For that we all owe George Atkinson our gratitude and our honor.

Bob Edwards, from those who have shared their memories of him, again represented the kind of entrepreneurial spirit and passion for his business that transcended his own interests and helped those colleagues he knew and the industry at large. He was an active member of the VSDA, serving both on the national board and regionally leading the Carolinas chapter. He believed in what he was doing, and stood for the independent spirit in publicly railing against the damage the big chains were inflicting on the little guy. Again, he stands as an example of how one person who takes it upon himself to get personally involved in the industry he is a part of can make himself heard and energize those who find themselves in similar circumstances.

The attitude that one person can make a difference is, if not a uniquely American trait, one that we tend to take more to heart and is what drives this society's innovation of business and industry forward at a pace few countries have been able to match. The home video business has its share of people like these on whose personal efforts we, today, build the future of the home entertainment industry.

If you have remembrances of George or Bob that you'd like to share, feel free to do so here. We may wish to use some of them in the next available issue of Home Media Retailing. Thanks.

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