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Indies Still Have a Niche

28 Jul, 2006 By: Jessica Wolf

I am taking a different tack from Thomas K. Arnold and his recent column about independent video retailers (HMR July 16-22).

Maybe I've been talking to the wrong people, but I am fairly sure most independents know exactly how little the major Hollywood studios probably think of them. I don't think most indie retailers need anyone to tell them “the studios have all but written you off.”

Correct me if I am wrong, but didn't this whole industry kick off about 30 years ago with the studios continually lobbying Congress to repeal the First Sale Doctrine and effectively end the rental dealers' right to do business?

The industry has changed, and not for the better for a lot of the small guys. From where I sit, independent store owners are less interested in blaming the studios for their state in the industry and more interested in finding ways to keep the lights on. I think that holds true for the majority of small-business owners in this country right now — not just in our industry.

Is there complaining? Sure. But mostly I think the indies have gotten to the point of “if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Indies wear lots of different hats. They have to. That's the state of this industry. Dwindling as it is, there is still a rental market to be exploited. There are still titles that people may want to watch but never own. There is still a rental mentality in the consumer's mind. Look at how well Netflix is continuing to grow.

Unfortunately for the indies, I honestly think that in a few years time, with technology continually falling into place, that rental mentality will be best and most often served by the digital sphere.

Where will the indies fit in when and if that happens? I don't know. I feel sure that some will remain. Look at the music industry.

The independent rental dealer is under few illusions about his or her place in Hollywood's grand scheme. It may not be a big, prestigious place, but if you can keep going, I say more power to you.

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