Editor's note: A version of this story originally ran on Dec. 8, 2012.
BRATTLEBORO -- Technology has changed things dramatically for local movie rental stores.
National chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video have closed all over the country, while independent, family-owned businesses are few and far between these days. Still, some of these small-town, local stores -- the ones that are specialized to sell and rent videos -- have strived to remain open.
"The one big thing about video stores is that they've always been a hub for the community. You come in and see people you know. You start conversations with them. You can touch and feel the product before you rent," said Todd Zaganiacz, a general manager at First Run Video in Brattleboro.
[Ed.: First Run announced last week that it would be closing in February.]
Stores like First Run have been competing with Netflix since 2000, along with the Internet, where people, legally or illegally, can download or stream content with the click of a button.
Blockbuster had even given up on competing with brick and mortar stores and created an online service that closely resembled the Netflix service people were switching over to. With their stores now closed, like Netflix, Blockbuster now offers a movies by mail and online service.
For the past 10-plus years, Redbox has become a fixture in many public places like gas stations, pharmacies, 7-Eleven stores and supermarkets. With the swipe of a credit card, customers can rent DVDs for about $1 each night and video games for $2.
Redbox machines are limited to what can fit in the machine, but it often has movies that are closer to being new releases than older ones.
"For us, it hasn't been that hard," said Ned Braley, manager at Video Headquarters in Keene, N.H.. "We always like a challenge and we've been adapting pretty well."
[Ed.: Braley is no longer a manager at Video Headquarters, but the current manager told the Reformer on Thursday that the store continues to do well.]
Braley mentioned that Video Headquarters gets new releases before Netflix and Redbox.
"We find a lot of people have become disenfranchised with Netflix," he said. "And streaming isn't what it used to be."
Braley pointed out that there are seven Redbox locations in Keene and only one Video Headquarters, but comparatively his store has many more titles.
"We're relying on our regulars and people in Keene who like to support local businesses," he said. "We focus on that more than on what our competitors are doing."
A video store can have a personal touch that computers and machines cannot replicate. Browsing the aisles is an activity not everyone is willing to give up.
First Run re-opened in a new location in Black Mountain Plaza on Putney Road on Oct. 1, 2012.
"First Run has always been a large video store," said Zaganiacz. "The first one came in before Blockbuster came into play and before Redbox or Netflix came into play as well. It's survived to be the last video store in town."
Gregg Morrow saved the store after its previous owner talked about closing it down in 2010.
With four Redbox locations in Brattleboro, and Netflix accounts popping up all around the country, conventional video stores are constantly challenged.
Zaganiacz pointed out problems with Redbox, referring to the fact that there is no communication, unless you go through customer service by telephone or e-mail. The disc cannot be returned immediately and replaced with another disc of the same title if it is damaged.
"We're here to satisfy the customer the best we can, whereas with the Redbox, you can't go to the machine and say 'this disc doesn't work.' You're not going to get an answer. The machine's not going to talk back to you."
He also talked about the ability to stream movies, which requires no download. A movie can be watched like a clip on YouTube.
With streaming films online, the quality isn't as good as a DVD or Blu-ray, Zaganiacz pointed out. The selection can be limited as well, depending on which service is used.
Morrow considers streaming to be the biggest contributor to the downfall of stores like his own.
"It's an industry that is dying," Morrow told the Reformer earlier this week. "Shops are closing. It's inevitable."