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Posted September 19, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Curtain call: Video store closing a sign of times

Backstage Video in Stephens City
Backstage Video in Stephens City will be closing its doors next month. Rich Cooley/Daily

By James Heffernan -- jheffernan@nvdaily.com

STEPHENS CITY -- Backstage Video will pull the plug on its store in the Food Lion shopping center next month.

Brad Driver, owner of the regional video rental chain, with eight locations along the Interstate 81 corridor from Staunton to Winchester, said revenue is down in a difficult retail environment, and the Stephens City store was on the fringe.

"It's a difficult decision because we have great customers," Driver said Thursday. "It's tough for them and it's tough for us, but unfortunately, it's something we felt we had to do."

The Stephens City store began liquidating inventory earlier this month, with all DVDs, Blu-Ray, TV series and XBox 360, PS3 and Wii video games priced to sell. New releases are currently $9 each or three for $22, and thousands of Hollywood classics are $8 each or three for $20, according to a press release.

Today is the final day for rentals, but the store will stay open until Oct. 3.

Backstage Video has been in the Food Lion shopping center since 2006, when it acquired Motion Video.

The company's Winchester location, at 261 Sunnyside Plaza, will remain open. Driver said its proximity was a factor in the decision to close the store in Stephens City.

"We're looking at ways to consolidate and find new and better ways to serve our customers," he said.

The Broadway-based company has a concept store, Backstage Movies-N-Games, at Forbes Crossing in Harrisonburg that is open to members around the clock using electronic key access. Inside, the location offers DVD and video game rentals via electronic vending machines.

The industry appears to be moving in that direction. Smaller, more automated stores and kiosks mean less rent and overhead, and mail-order and online distribution channels reduce operating costs.

This week, Blockbuster Inc. announced plans to double the number of stores it will likely close by the end of next year -- as many as 960 outlets nationwide -- as the company continues to struggle against low-cost rivals Netflix and Redbox.

About 18 percent of Blockbuster's stores are unprofitable, and 47 percent are only moderately profitable, the company revealed in a regulatory filing Tuesday. In addition, Blockbuster said it may convert 250 to 300 locations to outlets that focus on used DVDs.

Driver said movie lovers are still renting films and the video game segment is growing, but the economy has forced many people to cut back on their spending. Plus, there are a lot of entertainment options vying for Americans' free time these days, he said, including the Internet.

"We have pushed a lot on the consumer, and they have consumed. ... People just aren't spending as much right now."

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