Any movie store owners here?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by MarcoBiscotti, Jun 4, 2005.

  1. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    I was just curious, based on the content of this site...

    I assume there must be some entreprenuers or small business owners that post here, who've involved their work somehow in DVD and movies?


    I'm aksing because I've been throwing around some concepts of my own for some time now; I don't want to reveal exactly what I have planned but the general idea is sort of a dvd and record shop fusion that caters to film and music buffs and artists alike, but that also provides an environment for everyone to sort of hang out and share their enthusiasm amongst each other - if they care to.

    Sort of like what modern coffee houses have become, only instead of sitting around and yapping over espressos - there'd be a small lounge area with couches, recliners and love seats spread out throughout the back of the shop where people could chill and kick back amongst shelves of rare vinyl and dvd's. Not just specialty products though, the idea is not to create a niche atmosphere for the hardcore and eccentric enthusiasts, but a general location for students and family shoppers looking to pick up a dvd or new music to spend their time and money. Basically an entertaining and inviting alternative to the generic retail movie store.

    There'd be a large projector screen in the back where we'd constantly run films as people are browsing or shopping, and on designated nights, organize film screenings that revolve around a weekly promotional theme. For instance, one weekend we'd have a horror/cult movie theme or animation night where all dvd's in this section would be discounted, and we'd organize an after-hours screening in the back of the shop which we'd charge minimal entry for (a couple bucks), which would eventually fund such projects and allow us to continually offer weekly discounts and promote the events. Maybe even host a small festival at some point, for student filmmakers to submit entries and win a cash prize or gift certificate from our shop.

    The idea is, that people looking to just purchase a movie could stop by and do so, but in a friendlier and more fun environment (we'd carry all commercial and mainstream releases) - BUT - at the same time, involved enthusiasts and film buffs looking to pick up a more obscure or specialty title could stop by and the atmosphere would be inviting to draw people in and keep them in the shop.

    Maybe setup a small theatre-style concession stand in a corner fo the store to sell popcorn or drinks for those browsing the stock aisles or hanging out and chatting with others... I know if I were to walk into a store to buy a movie and was hit with the overwhelming smell of fresh popcorn, I'd definitely dive into my pockets and grab a bag while I continud to shop for my product.

    Students between classes who have an hour or so to kill, could stop by, browse the aisles to check out if there's anything interesting, and just chill and talk shop about films and records and whatnot.

    Not only do I think this would be a really original and fun idea, but it would be conductive to earnings as well from a business standpoint because beneath it all, we are operating a store and keeping people around our merchandise and product. The difference between our shop and any other generic retailer though, is that we're initially targeting and drawing in a specific group of people or demographic, and providing them a reason to stay beyond the product alone.

    No more clueless employees who have to plug every title you inquire about into a computer to check into it, or have no idea about what they're selling.

    It would be a group of my friends and associates, who know everything about music and films and the products we'd be selling... and are as compulsive obsessive about DVD's as all of us here at HTF... so no more mishandling box-sets at the register or carelessly swabbing a title over the desktop scanner at purchase.

    I think it would be the perfect place for people passing by to stop in and chat about their hobbies and spend a few dollars on a record or dvd while they're at it. I'm really not sure why most shops aren't like this. Why would anyon want to walk into a boring retail store to spend their money when ALL stores could be more interesting and interactive like this concept?

    Amyways, I'm thinking of approcahing an existing retail owner who runs a small independant music shop in Montreal, to ask whether he'd be interested in branching out and reformatting his shop under a partnership with me - still retaining his full finances and profits, but just operating under a new roof and by offering him a wider perspective consumer base.

    I think this would be good because he already has some credibility and pull among certain communities and "scenes", and the inventory is already there. Hopefully it would also provide him the finances down the line, to expand further but he'd basically run and manage his end of the shop as he currently does, and I'd operate mine with all movie or music sales going to each perspective department.

    I wanted to include music because I'm also really passionate about it, and I think it would be a good means of promotion in drawing in certain crowds. Someone looking to pick up this obscure 60's brittish psych rock record or new indie label hip hop single, would bump into an aqquaintance shopping for the new Godard Criterion release and start chatting. Or just mingle into the other section of the store and come accross some interesting cover on the shelf and it would open people up to new things. Especially if people stop by in groups, I imagine the possiblity of it being a very prosperous venture... At the same time, someone looking to run in quickly and pick up a Bill & Ted or Bruce Willis flick would be able to do so as well.


    HERE's why I posted this though:


    I have no idea where to start!

    How does one who wants to open up a movie/dvd store begin?

    I wanted to ask the advice of others who maybe in this business, how they got started. How do you order movies from the studios, how do you get distribution?

    Who would I even contact?

    From the financial/business end, I'm pretty confident. I have people who'd be willing to invest and partners to go in with. I know how to go about registering a company and the establishment of everything, while somewhat tumultuous, is still fairly straightforward and simple.

    I just don't know how to approach this from the DVD retail angle...

    I'd really appreciate feedback and suggestions if anyone has any to offer. Especially current business owners.

    Do you guys think that this is a good idea overall, and please help me out from a retail stance or link me to a resource that would further explain how to go about getting things started.

    Thanks so much!!!
     
  2. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    Well, the real question is whether you think your customer base will tolerate high prices.

    If you believe that they will, then your idea shows promise. If, however, you believe DVD shoppers are somewhat price-concious, then your idea sounds like fiscal suicide unfortunately.

    It will be a given that the big boys of DVD retailing - Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, etc. - will blow you out of the water price-wise. You just won't even come close to their terms from the studios directly or via the major distributors (Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Alliance, etc.).

    On top of that, you are talking about a pretty sizeable chunk of change going towards your physical location. Landlords don't like new businesses and you will either have to put a huge amount of $ into escrow to secure your lease or you'll pay through the nose for your space (PSF) ... or both.

    Because this is a public location, you also have to deal with all sorts of admin overhead: insurance, theft, ADA compliance, bathrooms, etc. This stuff is all a nightmare!

    At the end of the day, you have to know your customer. If you think that your neighborhood has the demographics to support an "art-house" type movie store, then it could be a lot of fun.

    Just be careful... The retail game is cut-throat.
     
  3. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    Thanks Don,

    I'm not too worried about competition with the likes of large chain retailers such as Wal-Mart and Future Shop (Best Buy).

    For one, because I don't think that the consumer base I'd initially be reaching out to generally shops there often to begin with. And second, at least from what I've observed in Montreal - Wal-Mart's home video department does not seem to be all that ideal or extensive and most people who shop there do not seem to go primarily for DVD's and videos.

    In fact, I'd say that as far as home video sales are concerned, independantly successful retailers such as La Boite Noire and Metro Video (who offer far more inclusive and comprehensive stock) probably garner much higher profits and attract a much broader and more frequent customer base for DVD sales alone, in comparison.

    Of course, they deal primarily in DVD whereas these other retail chain outlets ofter more variety so it's not really a fair analogy, but Montreal surprisingly has very few Wal-Mart type chain stores and I really don't think many people frequent them for the sole purpose of buying DVD's. I know that in the States, you can't drive 6 blocks without passing a Target or Best Buy, but Montreal is quite the opposite. It's much more European in that our commercial shopping and market areas are very centralized and we have many more specialty stores which offer concentrated quality products to a specific shopper rather than mega convenient-marts and oversized retail outlets that offer a melange of everything like the U.S.

    This city seems to cater to a more cultured shopper and there are some very successful "specialty" stores that deal primarily in DVD sale with a very wide variety that are quite prosperous. This would be more of a concern for me in regards to competition, but again, I'd be aiming for more than just an outlet for people to buy movies... it would be a place for students, movie geeks, music hipsters, etc to congregate and eventually hopefully something even bigger in terms of sponsorship and promotion. Plus the added advantage of selling records and music would pretty much seperate our venture into a league of it's own.

    Lease and location I'm sure will be the first and most prominent hurdle, but right now I'm looking at an area very close to downtown that hasn't really been commercially exploited yet but is slowly being gentrified as larger developpers are moving in and so it hasn't hit the premium rates that most prime locations are at right now. Plus I'm considering purchasing as real estate is doing quite well now and it will definitely apprecite with time as the sector of town gradually progresses and flourishes. It's currently a fairly low rent distric but there's a lot of money being put in right now and the location really is perfect. I recently moved into a high-end condo just blocks away last month and am really enthusiastic about the area.

    I just don't know how to approach this at all... who do I contact for distribution, are there set prices that are offered to all dealers or do studios sell at different costs, how do I start to fill an inventory?

    These are the elements I'd really like to get some advice on, especially from someone with experience if possible as it all seems overwhelming.

    How does one really start up such a business? I can handle getting the finances together, registering the business and location and shop are quite obvious... but how does one really get started with a DVD store??
     
  4. Thi Them

    Thi Them Producer

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    There's been a few threads like yours in the past here. You might want to contact the people who started those threads to see how they are doing.

    ~T
     
  5. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    Thanks Thi,

    would you happen to have a link to those past topics as I can't find any of these threads?
     
  6. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    Thanks a lot Thi,

    I was hoping to get a little more specific insight into the prospects of dvd retail in particular... but this is still semi-helpful.

    Thanks.


    PS - If anyone else owns a retail store, or even an online DVD site (Im sure theres at least one web owner that posts here because Ive caught posts in regards to discrepencies over pre-orders and street dates for certain online sites that had been clarified by members who run shop) please get in touch with me because I'd love to hear how you got started and ask a few questions!
     
  7. Aaron Reynolds

    Aaron Reynolds Screenwriter

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    Marco, I think you'll sink or swim on the non DVD and CD sales in your store, the things where there's room to make money. I don't know what exactly the margins are like on home theatre peripherals (though I hear you can make a lot of money on cables), but make sure you're doing well on the screenings and popcorn and drinks and the like. Don't be overly generous and price them too low.
     
  8. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    Thanks Aarnold, I don't plan to be.

    It'll mostly be for promotion and stuff, like maybe once a week host a themed screening after hours and offer weekly slightly discounted prices on all dvd's relative to the theme or genre. Like next week could be classic westerns, and all discs would be a few dollars off and one night we'd invite people in at a small fee and screen Shane or something equally great in the back room. Maybe even have a seperate direct entrance from outside, or even open the shop for 40 minutes after the screening only to the people who attended so they have a chance to purchase a dvd of the film if they enjoyed it or anything else. It would sort of be a bonus and again, whatever movie we'd be running would be on special. I think it'd be a fun way to bring people in and a great way to get a chance to screen fun movies that I'd like to see on a big screen with others. I think it'd have a great turnout. Maybe we could eve do something similair with the record shop, offer promotion on film score lp's relative to the theme of the week. I attend a film school in Montreal and am pretty close with the administration and would definitely work something out for all the students and get great promotion through them and perhaps approach the NFB as well for funding. It wouldn't be costly at all after the equipment is purchased and I know that every once in a while there are some bar venues and art house theatres that offer something similair and usually have great turnout so I'm sure it would be a big plus. That would all be part of the scheme of the shop, turn it into something more than just a resource to buy a dvd. At the same time, through the record store we would branch out and do promotion and sponsorship for local music acts which I've done a bit of throughout college. It would really be a way of connecting the arts locally and people as well. But to those who just want a great movie store, it would obviously serve as that as well. I don't anticipate these resources to be costly, it's just the initial setup that will be a hole in the pockets. My mom's a designer though and I know she'd be really enthusiastic about working with me. I'd want to do something really cool and avant-garde, sort of a retro-modern high end late 50's/60's european decor (think the home in A Clockwork Orange where the husband-wife are abducted) with maybe an old fashioned vaudeville style theatre theme in the back for the projection room. Something really nice and inviting for people to come in and hang out for half an hour and chat with us and friends while buying their goods. Almost like a small lounge atmosphere in the back of the shop, which would still always take precedence.
     
  9. Linda Thompson

    Linda Thompson Supporting Actor

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    First off, let me say that I have ABSOLUTELY no clue concerning the ins and outs of starting or running such a business (or ANY business for that matter), so please take my thoughts and suggestions accordingly...

    That said... It seems to me (anal retentive logic...NOT true knowledge) that, with the type of scenario you've described, you're looking at an awful lot of different licenses, permits, etc. Examples: If you serve food to be consumed on the premises, that's an issue (health permits, health inspections, etc.). If you screen films for a paying public, that's an issue (I would assume...according to all those FBI warnings we all fast-forward by)...etc.


    You're also looking at the possibility of having non-paying customers come in simply to loiter in a cozy, comfy atmosphere. I've seen people do that very thing in places like Books-A-Million, whose policies allow -- even encourage -- people to come in and browse, hang out and read to their heart's content, etc., at their leisure, and regardless of whether or not they end up buying anything. So, count on a percentage of folks who'll drop by to just hang out and watch some free movies, even though they'll be putting up with the distratcions and interferences from shoppers, etc... Plan accordingly, and don't make things TOO comfortable or accessible for such folks.

    One other thing you might consider stocking: worthwhile books and periodicals dealing with appropriate HT subjects. There are some great HT publications on the market, and many people might welcome the idea of having the best of them offered in such a one-stop shop. Again, though, be aware of the loiterers...

    Another idea...expensive, but perhaps worth it, if you see that there would be a customer base for it... Imagine having at least one isolated, fully-equipped HT room which folks -- individuals, or even small groups -- can use (rent, by blocks of hours perhaps) as a private theater. For various reasons, many people aren't yet up to having their own HT setups at home, and would be willing to pay a reasonable price to be able to experience their favorite movies in the privacy (and luxury!) of such a dedicated area. They could bring their own movies if they own them, and you could also, of course, keep a wide selection of rentable items on hand. (These could also be made available for take-home rental, if you so desire to delve into the hassles of such a setup.)

    Take special orders, if you can get in contact with good suppliers of rare or hard-to-find items. There are plenty of items for which many people would be willing to pay a premium price, IF they could just get their hands on those items. Allow customers to keep search lists and want lists, and you stay on the lookout for those items. Give the people what they want...

    Since you're catering to a movie-and-music-loving crowd, perhaps you could keep an up-to-the-minute display of local theater and concert information, and perhaps act as a ticket outlet, as a service to your customers. For big music events, offer attractive discounts on CDs and DVDs for the artists involved. Screen concert films or DVDs of upcoming acts if they're available. Arrange in-stores if you can.

    Also, it would be very convenient for your customers if you could somehow set up at least one public computer terminal, or at least serve as a wireless computer hot-spot. (How many times have you been browsing in a video store -- or any other type of store -- and wished you had a computer available for a quick check of something on the internet? Or, a quick check of the IMDB to help you remember the name of that actor of film on which you've suddenly drawn a total blank? Or, a quick check of the HTF reviews to see if that SE disc you're debating purchasing really is all it's cracked up to be?)

    Some of my suggestions are pure (and ultra-expensive) pipe dreams, I'm sure...a personal wish list for a store that I'd personally love to patronize. But, if you're well-enough financed and can swing it, I think they'd definitely help to draw the type of customer base you're hoping to foster.

    If you try to go head to head with the big retailers on a totally even playing field, you're gonna lose, no question. Your ONLY hope, in my opinion, would be to offer a totally unique experience, and totally unique services, which customers can't find anywhere else. No single outlet can be all things to all people, so you would really have to know your customer base and do whatever it takes to get them AND keep them. If you are truly deserving of their loyalty (in their own opinions), you'll likely get it.

    Think of the type of place YOU'D love to go...then become that place.

    In between every in-store screening, see if you can get the rights to air that little 5-minute segment from TCM in which various directors explain, in terms the general public can understand, exactly WHY widescreen is the ONLY acceptable option for films. You know...just in case any non-afficianados happen to wander into your HT haven. You might be able to save a few wandering souls from venturing down the forbidden path...

    And, it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) -- when multiple versions of specific items are available, ONLY offer the acceptable versions (i.e. - widescreen vs fullscreen). Don't pander to the lowest common denominator. If anybody asks for such forbidden product, explain to them (very diplomatically and politely, of course) why they really don't want it. (Or, if you've got that TCM segment and the appropriate rights, tie them to a chair and force-feed it to them for a few hours CLOCKWORK ORANGE-style). If they still persist after all of that, suggest that they search elsewhere. (That's what all those OTHER stores are for...right?)

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    You sound like you have the right enthusiasm for the project, just remember that running your own business means long days, no vacations, and very little pay for a long time. Sadly, many employees (and customers) *will* steal from you, so be certain to enlist the aid of security experts to help you minimize your losses. Perseverance and a vision sometimes pay off - good luck with your project!

    If you do this, be certain to obtain studio clearance and pay the rights holder for showing their films. In Canada, contact Criterion Pictures (not the DVD company) and ask them about getting clearance/license to show DVDs. Even if you don't charge admission to these showings, you're still exhibiting them publicly and it's illlegal to do so without permission.
     

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