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Movie Gallery closing a sign of times

As many movie fans in the area know by now, Movie Gallery is closing up shop in North Battleford. It's part of a nationwide bankruptcy liquidation of 131 stores across Canada.

As many movie fans in the area know by now, Movie Gallery is closing up shop in North Battleford.

It's part of a nationwide bankruptcy liquidation of 131 stores across Canada. I went down to the North Battleford location last week to check out some of what they had still available. They are no longer renting out movies; instead, they are selling off their entire stock. There are some good deals to be had, but I don't know if the deals are so great compared to what Walmart offers. With Walmart you can buy some movies for as low as five bucks.

And that is precisely a reason why Movie Gallery is going out of business. Walmart's low prices to own movies permanently beats Movie Gallery rental over a number of days. Why rent Goodfellas at Movie Gallery when you can own it forever on DVD at a discount from Walmart or these other places?

Another reason for Movie Gallery's troubles comes from your local cable company, where you can order movies direct off their menu. A lot of SaskTel Max customers, for example, can simply order a popular movie off the Max menu on TV and have it shown directly on their screens in the living room without ever leaving the house.

You can also go online and order a movie from iTunes or somewhere else. If you really want to be stingy about it, you can even view a movie off a pirate movie website for free - something all of Hollywood is up at arms about because of the impact illegal downloads have had on DVD and BluRay sales.

For those who want to still rent DVDs, increasing competition from automated DVD kiosks, as well as from subscription-mail companies such as Netflix in the United States, has made life miserable for your local movie rental places. Among other things, there's a lot less hassle renting a movie that way. At least you know you'll receive the movie you want to see. With Movie Gallery, you could go in to the store on a Friday night wanting to rent some big, popular movie and find out it's out of stock.

Then there are the movies these chains don't bother to even stock at all. A lot of really passionate, dyed-in-the-wool movie fans have made known their frustrations with some of the movie selections at these chains. These folks want to see the old classics, the "cult" titles or foreign films that have just come out on DVD release. And they would make the frustrating trek down to the local video store, only to find out from the clerk there that not only is the movie not in stock, but that they've never heard of the movie, either.

A guy like Quentin Tarantino, who used to work in a video store himself back in the day, would probably be frustrated by the selection at the movie-rental chains these days. The selection at a lot of these stores seems to cater only to middle-American popular tastes, not to die-hard movie buffs.

Chances are, too, that a real movie geek like Tarantino will also want to own, not rent, some rare movie. And you know what that usually means: more online and direct-mail business, because these folks usually have exactly the titles these people want.

That's why the movie rental chains are in trouble. Blockbuster Video is in as bad a shape as Movie Gallery these days, and for the exact same reason: they are having serious difficulty keeping up with what the customers for movies are demanding these days. In fact, when this Movie Gallery news broke, Blockbuster stock went even further down the tubes, down to 21 cents a share on the day of the announcement. Another chain, Hollywood Video, has also gone totally belly-up.

Add to that list the other usual troubles --- the bad economy, the sky-high rent stores have to pay in big-city neighbourhoods, and so on --- and it spells doom for your neighbourhood video store.

It's sad for the employees and for the movie buffs who still want to have the rental-store option available. But Movie Gallery's troubles are a sign of the times, and you can expect to see more stories like this in the near future. I don't think you'll ever see the video store totally go away. There was always be a need for a "niche" operation that stocks tons of titles for the die-hard movie fans, and ones that will cater to selling DVDs and BluRays instead of renting them out. But the neighbourhood video store is going the way of the old five-and-dime stores, as more people turn to more of these other alternatives that I have talked about.

In the DVD rental-store business, unfortunately, nothing is forever -- unless you want to own it forever on DVD.