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Laser Blazer to Close Its Doors on December 24th

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#1 of 12 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 08 2011 - 10:14 AM

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.

#2 of 12 OFFLINE   Charles Smith

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Posted December 08 2011 - 10:34 AM

Thanks for posting of that in such detail.  It's terrible news, whenever and wherever it happens.  I wish I'd been one of their customers.  They must have opened just as I was preparing to move from L.A. to the east coast, and I'm sorry I didn't have a chance to know the place.

#3 of 12 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted December 08 2011 - 10:36 AM

Thanks for posting that Kevin.  Its too bad.

#4 of 12 OFFLINE   SilverWook



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Posted December 08 2011 - 11:17 AM

They outlived Dave's Video:The Laser Place at least. I was weeding out my bookmarks the other day, and was surprised they were still around. Really wish I could have visited the store sooner. At least they will continue selling discs online in 2012.

#5 of 12 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 08 2011 - 11:29 AM

Ron told me they'll be selling collectibles online in 2012, but I'm not sure what that entails.   It may just be the backlog of rarer inventory that he has which won't be included in the GOOB sale.    At this point, no new discs are coming in.  Maybe he can work something out about that, but at this level of units, I can't imagine it would make him enough money to be cost effective.

#6 of 12 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted December 08 2011 - 11:32 AM

Dave's was the first place where I bought laserdiscs when I got my DVD/laserdisc player - a Pioneer DVL-909 that I still have in my living room.  I once used it as a primary DVD player, but switched over to other DVD players and then Blu-ray players as time went on.  The DVL is still useful for spinning up the lasers I have on hand.

#7 of 12 OFFLINE   ahollis



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Posted December 08 2011 - 11:56 AM

Originally Posted by Kevin EK 

Dave's was the first place where I bought laserdiscs when I got my DVD/laserdisc player - a Pioneer DVL-909 that I still have in my living room.  I once used it as a primary DVD player, but switched over to other DVD players and then Blu-ray players as time went on.  The DVL is still useful for spinning up the lasers I have on hand.

Same here, I still have a DVL-909 and use it for laserdiscs but my Blu-ray is the one chugging along now.  On visits to the West Coast I always made a bee line to Dave's, but never visited Laser Blazer.  Wish I had.  When I lived in Denver for 6 years in the early to mid 90's with UA theatres it was Laserland on Colorado Blvd that I lived at.  The guys there knew what they were talking about as I am sure the guys at Laser Blazer did.  Sad to see these places go.

"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman

#8 of 12 OFFLINE   Jeff F.

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Posted December 08 2011 - 12:01 PM

I began buying LDs there (at their original location, which I believe was on Overland) when I got my first player back in 1989 and continued buying with them until a few years ago, when my office moved over the hill. I will totally miss them.

#9 of 12 OFFLINE   JohnMor



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Posted December 09 2011 - 04:35 AM

Sad, sad, sad.  Loved Laser Blazer in its heyday, as I did Dave's.  Truly the end of an era.  Spent many hours (and dollars) in both stores.  I haven't been in in a while and I didn't realize Ivan was already gone.  Nice guy.

#10 of 12 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray



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Posted December 09 2011 - 05:48 AM

I too go back to the laserdisc era in its original Overland location. I dropped by several weeks ago and was shocked to see how drastically the floor space had been reduced. I was a regular Ken Crane's Laserdisc (later renamed DVD Planet) customer as I live much closer to Westminster CA, but have many, many fond memories of dropping by Lazer Blazer and Dave's Video when up in L.A. And, yes, Ivan is a great guy. Somehow, buying online just isn't the same, because it's such an isolating experience.

#11 of 12 OFFLINE   haineshisway



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Posted December 09 2011 - 09:38 AM

I ran into Ron a couple of weeks ago - I've been a customer since they opened their doors on Overland - and he told me the news - very sad indeed when there literally will be no mom and pop stores for anything anymore - it's shocking and the end of an era that's been ending for the last decade. Gone will be the fun of discovery - of thumbing through racks and finding something you didn't know about, or bought just because it looked interesting. Gone is the camaraderie of such venues - it's not just this, it's mom and pop bookstores, record stores, CD stores, all of it - the kiddies love this brave new world of doing everything on their iPhones and computers - and they'll never know what they missed or what it was all about. The only hope is that in future generations the old adage that everything old is new again (like vinyl) will come into play and some mom and pops will return and so will discovery and fun and the thrill of the chase.

#12 of 12 OFFLINE   TravisR


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Posted December 09 2011 - 09:53 AM

Slightly off topic:

Gone is the camaraderie of such venues - it's not just this, it's mom and pop bookstores, record stores, CD stores, all of it -...

I'm about 3,000 miles away from Lazer Blazer so I've never been there but as a fan of comic books, I'm seeing that industry turn to downloads which will eventually drive the stores (nearly 99% mom and pops) out of business. While that's obviously very sad for the folks that make their living that way, the thing that I will miss the most is standing around and talking with the employees and other customers about comics or movies or books or just life, etc. I've never really considered myself a social animal but I want more interaction with people than hitting 'Like' on their Facebook post and when stores like Lazer Blazer or comic book stores or movie theaters or where ever people congregate and talk begin to go away that kind of human interaction will disappear.

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