Spoiler alert: Movie-rental stores are in trouble. Blockbuster, formerly the biggest of the bunch, is under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, while Hollywood Video shut down almost a year ago.
To the alarm of many Santa Monicans, local favorite had been poised to become the latest victim of the trend. On Feb. 4, owners Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber sent out an SOS to their faithful fans, saying the 25-year-old store was in financial trouble.
But exactly one month later, the store's forecast has very much improved, thanks—in part, at least—to an outpouring of support from customers and the community. From January to February, rentals jumped 12 percent, according to figures just released by the store. Moreover, customers have been buying memberships and T-shirts to show their support for Vidiots, which is located near Third and Pico.
"If we continue with this increased momentum, we'll be able to pay off the debt we accrued," Polinger told Santa Monica Patch on Tuesday morning. The debts pertain to not only the store's poor rentals but also the annex that Vidiots opened in July.
Polinger and Tauber have been firing on many fronts. At the behest of a customer, they launched the Vidiots Preservation Society, a membership program that entails unlimited rentals, private screenings and parties. They also ramped up local advertising and social networking, as well as efforts to get involved with film guilds.
"Passionate people came forward and had time, money and ideas," Polinger said.
After issuing their call-out for support, Polinger and Tauber assembled an eight-person committee that helped generate the aforementioned ideas. Moreover, since Feb. 4, they've linked up with a documentary filmmaker who will be renting their annex space, providing more financial relief.
As for the Vidiots Preservation Society, it consists of three tiers: a platinum level that costs $1,000 annually and includes unlimited rentals for a year (two at a time and no due dates), a five-week class and a private screening or party in the annex; a gold tier that costs $500 a year and entails the same as the above, except customers can take out rentals one at a time; and a silver level that is priced at $250 and includes the class and screening/party.
Scheduled classes include a character-development session led by Patty Meyer, who teachers a master's class at the American Film Institute. Also, actress/comedian/writer/director Amy French (El Superstar) will lead an upcoming, one-night-only course on improvisation in film.
Some noted actors are slated to turn out for French's class, according to Polinger. She added that there's "something else exciting going on," although the details are still being solidified for that additional event.
Despite the recent outpouring of support for Vidiots, which counts Oliver Stone as a fan, some of the store's bump in business could be due to the weather-related downpours that occurred in January and February.
"We did have rain, which always helps us," Polinger said. "I have to attribute a lot of [the increased traffic] to the weather."
Still, the Vidiots faithful are continuing to show their support for the store—and vice versa.
According to a joint statement released by both owners, "Hearing the personal stories of how Vidiots impacts people both individually and as part of the community has been both amazing and heart-warming."