Over the last decade the final credits rolled for video stores all over the world after video streaming services like Netflix saw demand drastically drop.
Earlier this year, the last remaining video rental chain in the United States, Family Video, announced it was closing down all of its remaining stores.
The trend is global. Last month, the last video store in New Zealand’s biggest city, Auckland, announced its closing.
All video stores in the Croatian capital have also suffered the same fate, except one. Videoteka Pauk has survived and is the only video store remaining in Zagreb.
Videoteka Pauk, which translates as Video rental store Spider, first opened 20 years ago in 2001 on Ozaljska Street in the Zagreb suburb of Trešnjevka. The store has more than 22,000 members, 16,000 movies and one resident cat.
“Three years ago a little white kitten walked in and stayed with us. His name is Marlon Brando and some clients come in just because of him,” owner Marko Jantol tells us.
Despite the large amount of video on demand platforms, Marko says that people are still showing interest in watching movies in the classical way, on media, DVD or BluRay, just like some people still like to listen to music on records or CDs.
Marko says his store offers something which on demand platforms don’t.
“My personal opinion is that we we have all become too comfortable, everything is available to us in two clicks – a movie, series, favourite band, newspaper article…people are less and less coming out of their apartments and hanging out, and this pandemic has accelerated it all. That’s why people like to come to us, talk a little, ask for a recommendation… it often happens that a client comes and doesn’t know what to watch at all, and asks for recommendations for what to watch,” he explains.
Movies at Videoteka Pauk are rented for a week, so that people have plenty of time to watch the movie and to avoid that unpopular late fee.
Marko says that over the last year, members’ habits have changed and popular Hollywood blockbusters are no longer in demand.
“That is either because they are easily available on platforms, or because they are simply bad movies.”
Old classics, European cinema, as well as local and regional titles are in demand today.
“Of the newer classics there is the holy trinity that is always sought after — The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit collection, the Harry Potter collection, and of course the Star Wars collection.
Woody Allen, Hitchcock films are in great demand… it is interesting that the younger generations like to watch films from the 80s and 90s, for example Back to the Future, The Goonies and Gremlins. The most sought after new titles are Marvel movies, especially Avengers and Iron Man, and the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy,” Marko reveals.
Marko says that the members of the video store are diverse, ranging from small kids — who love to take synchronised cartoons, to students — who like to discover art movies — workers, who do not have time to waste on a platform and come in for recommendations, to his favourite — pensioners.
The video store has benefited from the attention it has received being the sole surviving store in town.
“We have been covered by the media for the last couple of years, and a lot of new clients have come because of that! New ones are coming, old clients are coming back,” Marko says.
As expected, the store is busiest on the weekend, and Marko says that it is quiet if there is a big sports match on, if it is raining or as has been the case recently, when the epidemiological situation is not great.
Zagreb could soon be one of the only capital cities in the world with a video store which could be a tourist attraction in itself.
“A year ago I asked the local Zagreb city council about how the city could perhaps help me considering the fact that we are among the last video stores in Croatia, but no one was really interested. Yesterday, there was a change in power, maybe we will have more luck now,” Marko concluded.