After 38 years in business, owner Andy Katz is closing Five Star Video. For decades, Katz had been the last man standing, offering patrons a blast from the past: the in-person experience of browsing an aisle for a movie, touching and reading the covers, and listening to movie recommendations from store clerks who carry with them encyclopedic knowledge of obscure titles.
Katz's store houses about 18,000 titles, everything from musicals to documentaries to foreign language film.
"People get lost here. They will start picking at movies. They lose sight of what they're here for," says Katz. "But it's like being a library, and it's recreation for people. They like it."
As streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have grown, video rental stores throughout the country have closed. What have we lost as we moved from brick-and-mortar stores with human-curated collections to streaming services that recommend videos and television shows?
A lot, says Katz.
"There's a tactile side of shopping, and that's gone with Netflix. Their algorithm steers you towards things you might like based on what you've seen before, and that takes away your curiosity for new things. It's the further commoditization of art."
The end of his lease seemed like a perfect moment to retire, he says. The store's final day of operation will be June 17. After the store closes — from July 13 to 15 — Katz is planning to have a liquidation sale. It's been a decent run, he says. Last year was profitable, but like most video store owners before him have discovered, Katz predicts the future won't be so bright.