Family Time Video looks to take on big chains

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, November 3, 2009

IRONTON — For the past two decades, the big video-rental chains consistently whitewashed the small independent video shops with larger selections, national marketing and deep discounts. Those ominous statistics makes the feat Matt Matney pulled off last month even more impressive.

Matney, along with his wife of 21-years Marilyn, opened Family Time Video on Oct. 4 and in less than a month are already proving their point that smaller is sometimes better.

“I opened this store for my wife,” said Matney, who currently is employed as a supervisor at Liebert Corp. “I had a large collection of movies and then purchased another large set from a co-worker.”

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With more than 2,500 titles available for rental, the store, located at 210 S. Third St. in Ironton, shows off a collection Matney has grown for the past eight years.

A self-imposed movie buff, Matney said his all-time favorite film from the thousands he has viewed, is the 1977 science-fiction film “Star Wars.” That classic, along with a wide selection of titles across the entire movie spectrum makes Family Time Video a sensible choice, Matney said.

“We have comedies, dramas, action movies along with family-geared films,” Matney said while adding that Family Time Video also has one of the largest collections of professional wrestling videos in the area.

Membership to Family Time Video is free of charge. All a first time customer needs to provide in order to rent is two forms of identification and a phone number. In less than a month, Matney said he already is close to his first month goal of having 100 members.

Establishing a targeting niche is one strategy that Matney believes will help him survive in a world increasingly dominated by big chains like Blockbuster, Movie Gallery, Red Box and even mail order rentals like Netflix.

Since the late 1980s, the chains marched on new markets like Ironton by offering a broader selection of videos and, later, by drafting revenue-sharing agreements with the movie studios, which allowed the chains to carry many copies of new releases for a small upfront fee.

But that model changed beginning in 1998.

Now the big chains are getting kicked around, thanks to video-on-demand technology, online-delivery services like Netflix and selling films straight to consumers. As a result stores like Blockbuster and Movie Gallery have closed nearly 1,000 stores combined and have seen revenues drop up to 80 percent.

And that is where Matney and Family Time Video enter the picture.

The closure of the larger stores means increased revenues for those small and resilient video stores that have recently opened or stuck it out.

Renting a movie from Netflix requires a two-day wait by mail while video-on-demand is often pricey without a large selection. At Family Time Video, Matney believes his store’s niche is offering a wide variety to the budget-minded demographics of the areas that might want to rent a film on a moment’s notice.

That niche hasn’t been missed even by Matney’s competitors.

“Just recently, an employee of one of the large chains came into the store and commented that even their store didn’t have a lot of the selections that we had,” Matney explained.

Rental fees are simple at Family Time Video. Two dollars for two days and that even includes new releases. Plus the store runs numerous specials that include receiving one free rental for every 10 paid rentals.

Another promotion Matney explained was a weekly drawing where the store gives away five free rentals every Saturday. For every rental a member makes during the previous week, they get one entry into the contest.

Family Time Video is located at 210 S. Third St. in Ironton. The store is open Monday through Thursday from 4-10 p.m.; Friday from 4-11 p.m.; Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 10 p.m. The phone number is (740) 533-1446.