I really hate going to the video stores these days. There’s a Hollywood Video a few blocks from my house that I go to anytime I get the urge to watch a movie *right now* that I don’t have at home. There’s actually a long list of movies I like, but won’t buy for various reasons, which I won’t really get into. Anyway, I always have these coupons so I go to Hollywood. That, and I’m not a big fan of Blockbuster. The problem is, every stinking time I go to the video store to rent something, I have about a 10% success rate.
My first problem is that I can never find what I want. The organization there is completely outmoded. In an online social world, thankfully things are easily tagged with multiple categories. In the video store, there’s a few select genres you have to browse through, so you have to decide which genre most describes the movie you’re looking for. It’s always rough when it’s a sci-fi / adventure / drama flick because it could be anywhere.
Not only that, but of course there’s only one copy of the movie. And if you can’t find it on the shelf, you’re out of luck. Why do they even store them on the shelves anymore? If you go to a used CD store, what they will usually do is have a huge wall of all the discs behind the counter. You can browse through the jewel cases and read the inline notes and stuff and when you’re ready to check out, you just take the empty case to the front and they find the disc for you. That’s what we need at the video store. Most of the time I know what I’m looking for, so I should just be able to ask them for it at the counter instead of digging through the miscategorized and unordered shelves of hundreds of cases crammed together.
Then of course it gets even worse, since they are sorted alphabetically somewhat, so you pretty much have to scan the entire section of the letter you’re looking for because it could literally be anywhere.
Another big beef I have is that these guys have obviously never heard of the concept of the Long Tail, because they never stack the sleepers anywhere. I have really odd tastes, so I’m generally way off my rocker going to the video store anyway, because it’s an adventure in hopelessness finding something to watch if I don’t already have something in mind. And since I usually can’t find the movie I was looking for in the first place, I’m stuck just aimlessly browsing. Which brings me to the next point.
For those people looking for something to watch, you have only one option of browsing the possible titles, and that’s by visually examining the cover of every box. Once you find one that looks like it might be interesting, then you can read the back cover and see if the movie sounds interesting. This approach is completely missing out, because there are a lot of ways to browse movies. You’re basically ignoring the two other ways that people can quickly perceive and gather information: audibly and literally.
One great thing I totally love about Netflix is that it’s simple to quickly browse a lot of movies by popping up a short description about what the movie is like. I can just hover my mouse over the cover and it will display a little window with a summary in a few short paragraphs. If it looks interesting, I’ll just add it to my queue. And there’s another thing the stores are missing out on — let users have a freaking queue! Or a list of movies they’d find interesting. Setup little kiosks and let them create accounts (which they should already have if they are renting anyway) and they can add what they want. It’d be just like the library (blimey!) you can put a movie on reserve and when they get it in, you can come pick it up.
As far as the other ways to browse movies, I have great ideas. I love watching trailers because they give you a quick, entertaining three-minute glimpse at the synopsis of the movie. You can quickly determine from watching a trailer if it’s something that would suit you or not. Setup some computers in the store and have trailers from every freaking movie you can find, so that the people can find some suggestions.
As far as literally, I meant in the terms of reading what a movie is about. Sure the store has these little booklets that they hand out for free, but they are always about the latest movie that came out. It’s generally a step in the right direction, except for the fact that probably nobody cares about them. Who wants to read about how some critic thought that “Snow Dogs 3” was greater than air freshener.
When I worked box office at the movie theater, one of my co-workers would print out weekly the summaries of each movie that was playing. When we had someone come up that wasn’t sure what to watch, we would hand them that sheet so they could quickly look over what the movies were about. Sometimes a short title just isn’t gonna give you enough insight into what the movie is about.
Anyway, I would rawk at running my own video store, I’d revolutionize the whole process. Maybe I should.