Video Warehouse, one of the last remaining Des Moines movie rental stores, closing in 2021
Film writer Lindsey Bahr of The Associated Press looks at the state of Hollywood blockbusters in a tumultuous year for movies. (Dec. 10) AP Entertainment
The Video Warehouse, one of the last remaining movie rental businesses in the Des Moines metro, is closing.
The store at 5801 Franklin Ave. is selling off its inventory, including DVDs, a few remaining VHS tapes, shelves and other furniture, and will close when it's depleted. It expects to shut down in mid-February.
"There's not too many video stores left, virtually anywhere, anymore," said Russell Vannorsdel, vice president of Des Moines-based Fridley Theatres, which owns the store. "And it's been a good, long run."
Since its opening on Nov. 24, 1986, just in time for the Thanksgiving rental rush, Video Warehouse has been a Des Moines institution, sticking around even as national chains have been decimated by the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
Blockbuster, which once had more than 9,000 locations across the United States, closed its last store in the Des Moines metro in 2014. Hollywood Video and parent company Movie Gallery have been gone even longer, victims of a 2010 bankruptcy liquidation.
Few options for local video rentals remain: There's a Family Video in West Des Moines and Redbox rental kiosks scattered throughout the metro. Family Video closed several metro area stores a few months ago, according to We Are Iowa news.
Meanwhile, Netflix reported $6.44 billion in revenue and an additional 2.2 million paid subscribers in just the third quarter of the year.
Video Warehouse, which has been located in its vintage 1949, single-story building at the corner of Franklin Avenue and Merle Hay Road since its opening, has more than 20,000 videos available for rent, ranging from new releases to silent films.
In addition to rentals, Video Warehouse sells movies of all genres, particularly excess copies after the rental demand for new releases dies down.
Jon Fridley, who operates the store, said that despite hundreds of loyal customers, the coronavirus pandemic was the straw that broke the camel's back. The store shut down for two months in the early stages of the pandemic, and during that time, customers who couldn't access movies in-person started subscribing to streaming services, he said.
"And once they go to the streaming services, it's hard to get them back," Fridley said.
Another factor is that the movie industry has put a pause on releasing new films during the pandemic, he said. Typically, DVD rentals are available about three months after a film appears on the big screen. But with few new films, there's a lack of fresh inventory.
It's estimated new rentals won't be available until next summer, Fridley said.
"Things are just backed up that far, and for us to try to stick it out that long just didn't make sense," he said.
Video Warehouse was started by his father, Bob Fridley, the 103-year-old founder of Fridley Theatres, which owns 17 cinemas in Iowa and one in Nebraska. In the early days, the elder Fridley hand-curated the store's inventory, even adding movies from his personal collection to the store's shelves, his son said.
At one point, there were 30 Video Warehouse locations in Iowa. Fridley Theatres recently closed its Estherville, Iowa, store, the last Video Warehouse besides the Des Moines location, Vannorsdel said.
The 8,200-square-foot Des Moines building is now for sale.
"Slowly but surely that business model has become more difficult, and as we looked at the video store, we looked at it as an asset that might have the opportunity to house somebody else in the future," Vannorsdel said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct location of the only remaining Family Video in the Des Moines metro.