West Vancouver's final Frontier
“Maybe we could all pay $500 to keep it open, to make it like a club to belong to?” asks one woman who has been a customer for years. A few of her favourite titles in hand, this visit will be one of her last.
The DVDs are for sale now in an effort to clear stock before the doors close permanently at the end of this month.
Due to competition from pay-per-view movies, online subscription services and illegal downloading, video stores on the North Shore and elsewhere have been suffering. In North and West Van, the vast majority have closed.
Just 10 years ago, Frontier Video’s manager Suzy Walker remembers there were around 30 on the North Shore. Once Frontier closes, there will only be a couple left in North Van.
But she is proud her small store on Marine Drive and 18th Street outlasted the bigger chains. Rogers Video in Park Royal North was the last chain store standing in West Van, but shut down when its customers turned to the Internet instead.
“The sad part is you can’t get everything online. Older movies, foreigns, classics — we have them all here,” says Walker, pointing towards a wall that was once full of hard-to-get movies.
“You usually can’t get special features online either, and people really like those.”
The steady decline in movie rentals coupled with the high rent in West Van has made owning a video store in the municipality financially impossible.
It’s a reality many find difficult to stomach. As customers file in to buy discounted movies and TV series, some are visibly upset the store is closing.
“Where are we going to rent movies now?” says one movie buff carrying six of his favourites. “At least I own these now. I don’t know where else I would get these.”
Frontier Video’s owner David Han bought the shop nearly 20 years ago, but it has been under different names for a quarter century.
First called 24hrs Video then Wilderness Video, Han changed the name when he took over.
He now stands behind the cash register selling his last movies. But he isn’t able to ring through movies for long.
A longtime customer wants a proper goodbye, so Han steps to the side while an employee takes over.
Han has seen rentals change from clunky videos to DVDs and more recently Blu-rays. He remembers the brief popularity of laser discs, which were as big as records and took several changes to complete a movie.
“We’re the last place to rent a movie on the way to Whistler, so a lot of people stop in before they go,” says his manager. “All the stores have closed down there and in Pemberton too.”
Having grown up making trips to the video store, Walker says the closures are making society less social. “You can do anything at home now, on the Internet. The days are going where you could walk down with friends to rent a movie and talk to people about which ones to get. It’s sad.”
Walker knows where every movie is in the entire store, but hasn’t had the chance to watch the majority of the collection.
“We have thousands here. Way more than you’ll find online.”
It’s not so much “paid for” rivals like Netflix that are making small stores suffer, she explains, it’s illegal downloading.
“Yes, it’s free but you can’t find everything, and it takes a lot of the fun out of renting a movie — the social aspect is a big part of it.”
Frontier Video is located at 1760 Marine Drive, next to Dairy Queen. Drop in to buy videos and TV series until Feb. 28.