Once upon a time, Netflix only sent DVDs to subscribers. It was an age of innocence when Netflix had a huge inventory to choose from and people waited days for their movies to show up in the mailbox. Since then, we’ve all fallen into a streaming haze, but Broadway Metro in downtown Eugene is bringing back the movie delivery system — and this time you don’t have to wait for the mail carrier.
Broadway Metro Managing Director Ed Schiessl says the program isn’t just a way to pay the bills during the pandemic. He has a vision of the DVD rental store taking over the Willamette Street lobby, where it would be a place where moviegoers can head to after a movie.
“This idea goes back to the early days,” Schiessl says. “This seemed like the opportune time when everybody was stuck at home.”
Schiessl has been buying DVDs for the past few months. He’s scouring the internet, looking for movie stores that are selling their inventory. And he says he’s in negotiation with Eugene’s Silver Screen Video to buy their DVDs. He says he hopes the two businesses can come to an agreeable price because Silver Screen Video has a lot of foreign and indie films. The video store on 24th and Agate closed in 2018.
At first, Schiessl says he thought about having some sort of spreadsheet for subscribers to browse through the available DVDs. But he says when he talked with his business partner Sean Hanson about the idea, Hanson wanted to build a more sophisticated website.
Starting at $72 a year to borrow one DVD without a due date, subscribers have access to a website with search functions and an algorithm that offers recommendations. The website also has a movie queue, which you choose from when you make your order. Subscribers can also order concessions, and Broadway Metro has curbside service at the downtown location or free delivery.
Schiessl says he hopes the DVD program fills the void for local cinephiles who are tired of limited choices on streaming services.
Although Netflix has put a focus on releasing its own produced movies and TV shows, data from the streaming aggregator ReelGood shows the streaming giant has only 3,781 movies (424 of which are considered critically acclaimed by IMDb). And Amazon Prime has nearly 13,000 movies, though not all are free with the cost of a membership. (It’s hard to imagine these movie giants missing great movies, but try looking for a Mel Brooks movie and you’ll be disappointed.)
“For a comparison, Movie Madness in Portland has 80,000 titles on hand,” Schiessl says. “The amount of cinema history missing from these online platforms in terms of indie movies, foreign films, classics, all this stuff is disappearing in terms of being easily accessible online.”
He says regular moviegoers are most likely to rent and buy movies for home viewing. So when movies are showing again at the theater, he says viewers can see a movie, take one home with them and bring it back when they return. It’s a way to help introduce viewers to other works by directors, like South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho, who dominated film conversations after his movie Parasite took home a ton of Oscars earlier this year.
Schissel says the Broadway Metro originally planned to close the lobby on Broadway and turn it into another auditorium. But if the DVD program takes off he says that space could instead become a Blockbuster-like library that has a coffee shop and growler depot.
But until we get back to “normal times,” the DVD program is an adaptation to the times.
Broadway Metro has bills in the ballpark of $50,000 a month, Schiessl says. He doesn’t expect the program to bail out the theater, but he says if it gets a few hundred subscribers, it could “soften the blow” of a closed theater. The program can also help the theater when social distancing measures ease up but people are still uneasy about gatherings.
“A lot of people aren’t going to be ready to come back to the movie theater right away,” he says. “This is a way for us to bring the movies right to them and they can still support us so we’re here when they’re ready to come back.”
For more information on Broadway Metro’s DVD program, visit BroadwayMetro.com