It is with some sadness that I must relay the closing of one of the last great DVD retailers in Southern California. Laser Blazer, which has been operating since 1988, has announced that they will close their doors as of Christmas Eve this year. The store, located on Pico Blvd near Overland, close to 20th Century Fox Studios, has always been a great place to browse and buy movies on disc. I have been a regular customer since 1998, and the owner, Ron, told me the store's registers list about 500 visits by me to the store since that time. I will truly miss the place. For those who live in Los Angeles, the inventory will be going on sale, with steeper and steeper discounts until the doors close on the 24th. Laser Blazer was initially a specialty store for laserdiscs and related materials. At their highest point, during the 1990s, they were selling large volumes of laserdiscs, particularly the showcase items like the Star Wars laserdisc sets. I started shopping there just as DVDs began to expand their footprint. When I first came there, the DVDs occupied a small area near the front of the store, and much of the floor space was taken up with the bigger laserdiscs. (I don't recall them carrying any Divx titles). By later 1999, the DVDs were taking over more and more of the floorspace, and the laserdiscs were relegated first to a front rental area, and then to an area of the back room. The store's floorspace expanded as the amount of sale and rental DVDs blew up over the next few years. From time to time, other items would be included in the floorspace, such as vintage 1980s video games like Galaga. Home Theater Equipment was also featured, at the back of the sales floor. There were several signing events held at the store over the 2000s, including one with the cast of The Big Red One. In 2006, with the laserdiscs now tucked in the back, competing red and blue packaging came in as the HD-DVD/Blu-ray format war was waged. One wall of the store was dedicated to the new HD formats, splitting down the middle between the two. When Blu-ray took over in 2008, the HD-DVDs occupied less and less of that wall until going into close-out sales. In 2007, with the numbers dropping in DVD sales, and with the format war not helping encourage buyers to stock up on either HD idea, the store went into partnership with Kevin Smith, who opened an outlet of Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash in the back area that had been dedicated to the laserdiscs. For the next couple of years, the back area was filled with comic books and graphic novels, but sales did not improve. In January, 2009, the outlet was ended, and the back area was again devoted to laserdiscs, as well as used DVDs and Blu-rays. Other ideas were discussed, including bringing in pinball machines or other collectibles, but the sales continued on a downward trend. Over the past 18 months, things really went downhill, and the owner condensed the size of the store to perhaps a third of its footprint, leasing out the remaining space to a dance studio. The store began ordering less copies of Blus and DVDs as the business dropped off. One of its better sellers, the extremely low-priced shelf of cheap DVDs, was undercut by Blockbuster, which started selling the same cut-out DVDs for even lower prices. By this fall, the store was no longer able to attract people, even to buy the new Star Wars Blu-ray set. Where the 1990s laserdisc sets and even the DVD for The Phantom Menace had once sold many units, the Blu-ray set moved a fraction of that number. Once that happened, the end was sealed. We can see a lot of causes for the descent. Where people used to build large movie collections on DVD, they now have essentially filled them, and thus the DVD sales have been lower. (Not counting various wish-list items people continue to await) Where people were happy to upgrade to DVD for its convenience and the extra features, they have been less eager to upgrade to Blu-ray, and thus the Blu-ray sales have been lower. Where laserdiscs weren't sold as readily by all video stores as the smaller VHS tapes, DVDs and Blu-rays are sold everywhere, and thus sales have been lower. Where the economy was stronger in the 1990s and people had more money to spend on home theaters and discs, we've been in a bad slump for a while, and thus sales have been lower. Where there once was not a widespread internet sales market like Amazon in 1988 when Laser Blazer opened, now people can buy DVDs and Blus from Amazon for greatly reduced prices, and thus sales have been lower. Where DVDs were an exponentially growing market in the first few years, now people have turned to other sources, including streaming, and thus sales have been lower. And we could cite many other factors. But the simple truth is that any one of these factors would be a hard one to overcome. All of them together will kill a store. As I said, I'll reallly miss these guys. They had a great selection of movies and television series, including many obscure titles I would never have thought of had I not found them in their store. They had a really friendly staff, particularly Ron and Ivan (gone now from the store for months as part of the cutbacks), and several other people who have never been anything but polite and helpful to me. As we pass this Christmas Eve, I'll take a moment to wish them well.