Final Credits: Movie Market in Enfield to Close After More Than 30 Years

  • Pat Danielson, of Canaan, N.H., left, reacts to co-owner Kevin Lary, as he shares a story from his time at the Movie Market in Enfield, N.H., on March 1, 2018. "These guys are just wonderful they bend over backwards for you with anything you need or want," Danielson said after renting a TV series. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • From left, Nick Smalls, Benjamin Smalls and Nichole Smalls, all of Canaan, N.H., walk out of the of the Movie Market in Enfield, N.H., on March 1, 2018. After over 33 years of business the Movie Market will be closing its doors on March 31. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Co-owner Kevin Lary talks on the phone at the Movie Market in Enfield, N.H., on March 1, 2018. The store will be closing after over 30 years of business. "It has been great and I do not have any regrets at all," said Lary as he waited for customers to walk through the door. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A weekly special for January 1991 for the Movie Market in Enfield, N.H., on March 1, 2018. After over 33 years of business the Movie Market will be closing its doors on March 31. (Valley News - Carly Geraci) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Business Writer
Sunday, March 04, 2018

Enfield — For 33 years, Movie Market in Enfield has been the little video store by the side of the Route 4 where customers stopped in to pick up a movie on the ride home from work or for a stay-at-home date night.

After years of defying a trend that all but eliminated the video rental store sector in the Upper Valley and beyond, Movie Market’s long-running show is drawing to a close.

By the end of the month, the store — which its owners believe could be the last of its kind in New Hampshire — will be shutting its doors for good, a victim of the internet and a generation that prefers streaming videos on cellphones and laptops rather than popping a disc into a DVD or Blu-ray player.

Loyal customers were streaming into the store last week in the wake of the news that co-owners Kevin Lary, 63, and Fred Lane, 67, announced — online, of course — that they are folding up shop. Some customers dropped by to offer condolences; others wanted to rent a few last films while there was still time.

“I’ve been coming here all my life,” Stephanie Winters said late Thursday morning as she swung by the store with Brian O’Dougherty and selected Wonder, Crooked House and Flatliners off the store’s shelves. “It’s like a family. We’re really going to miss this place.”

O’Dougherty had a more practical reason for liking to rent DVDs as opposed to watching movies online.

“I’m old school. I don’t do Netflix. I’m not much for computers,” he said.

The news of Movie Market’s closing reverberated through the Enfield-Canaan-Grafton community, from where the store drew the majority of its customers. By Friday morning, three days after the news was posted online, the store’s Facebook page received 310 emoji acknowledgments (245 of them with the sad face), 276 shares and 167 comments.

Facebook comments recorded an outpouring of grief as if a dear friend or family member had passed away, while others expressed defiance against the inexorable march of technology that has rendered once familiar businesses obsolete: “This is so very sad in so many ways.” “I’m heartbroken.” “Omg I hate this.” “We will miss you terribly.” “My kids grew up going every weekend.” “Too much advanced technology is getting in the way of people and business.” “Unfortunately this is technology.” “My husband is going to be lonely without them movies.”

Amanda Maloney, who grew up in Canaan and now lives in Manchester, said she still rents movies from the store when she comes home to visit her parents — as recently as two weekends ago she rented the original 1995 fantasy adventure film Jumanji.

“What I really liked about the store was the hometown feel to it,” Maloney said. “When you walked into the store, the owners knew your name, they knew what you liked and would recommend movies for you. I think the human touch is lost with Netflix.”

Once ubiquitous, video rental stores have been disappearing for more than a decade. Giant chains such as Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery, which dotted the commercial landscape, all vanished by way of bankruptcy.

At the peak of the movie rental business, in 2000, more than 28,000 video stores operated around the country.

Only about 1,000 remain today, estimates Marc McCloud, owner of Orbit DVD in Asheville, N.C., who runs an “emotional support group” for video store owners on Facebook.

“It’s just dire; so many people have closed shop,” McCloud said.

In the Upper Valley, in 2014, both Videostop, once a six-store chain, closed it last video rental location in West Lebanon, as did MGM Video in Glen Road Plaza.

For those looking to rent videos, there are Redbox kiosk locations sprinkled around the Upper Valley, including Canaan, West Lebanon, White River Junction, Claremont, Windsor, Newport and Randolph.

Lary, who once ran the Stowe Video store outlets in Hanover and on the mall in Lebanon, acquired Movie Market together with Lane in 1990 from the family of the late Richard Battis, who opened the store in 1984.

During the industry’s peak through the 1990s and into the early 2000s, Lary said it was not unusual to rent up to 500 videos just on a Friday and Saturday night and 700 or 800 on a big holiday weekend.

“It was hopping,” Lane said.

Now anything over 200 rentals per week “would be pretty good,” Lary said.

As an illustration of how the business has fallen off in recent years, Lary said that the store rented a total of 6,580 DVDs and video games this past February and January — the busiest months of the year — compared to 10,900 in 2014 and 13,890 in 2013.

But Movie Market was able to hang on longer than most because of its rural location where many people lacked the high-speed internet service required for streaming or did not want to pay for cable.

That’s been changing in recent years, however, as phone and cable companies have upgraded their rural networks.

Last year, the store hit a “brick wall,” Lary said. “It wasn’t going to be a temporary downturn.”

Still, 500 customers had 100 or more visits to the store in the past 13 months, indicating that not everyone has defected to online viewing.

“Yeah, you think it would work,” Lary mulled after reviewing his customer traffic records.

But he needed to keep rental prices low — Movie Market charges $4 for a three-night rental for the same movie that Amazon Prime charges $5.99 for a 30-day availability and 48-hour viewing period — to match his customers’ ability to pay, many of whom are retired and on fixed incomes or in modest-wage jobs.

Movie Market has more than 10,000 discs in stock and 5,703 customers in its database. The store — the building is owned by adjacent Family Pharmacy — will close for a week and then reopen April 7 for a liquidation sale.

The longtime tenure of Movie Market’s one full-time employee and two part-time employees has been a testimony to how much the staff enjoyed working there.

Roger Lowell has been a full-time employee for 24 years. Judi McCarthy has been with the store part time for 19 years, and Crystal Battis, a paraeducator at Lebanon High School, has been working at the store part time since she was 23, when her in-law’s family opened it in 1984.

“My plan was to work until I was 68,” McCarthy said. “I’m in my 70s now.”

“It’s been an awesome place to work,” she said. “You meet so many people from the community. I’m really going to miss everyone who comes in here on a regular basis.”

Battis said she wasn’t surprised when her bosses told her Movie Market would be closing.

“I could see how things were going from inside the store,” Battis said. “I could tell that was a difficult call for them to make … they are like older brothers to me.”

Lary said most movie rental stores were not able to figure out how to evolve beyond renting and selling discs.

At one point, he said, the trade industry association was pushing video stores to combine with tanning salons.

“I could never figure out how that was going to work,” he said.

But if the rental business went kaput, the sales end survived, according to Laura Poole, who owns Your Warehouse Video in Wolfeboro, N.H.

She’s been running her buy-sell-trade video business for 12 years and has even found a demand for old VHS tapes because not all movies have been converted to DVD format, Poole said.

“I have people who come from Laconia, Dover, Portsmouth, Rochester and Conway looking for VHS,” she said. “I even have three people on a waiting list for a VCR.”

Others, such as McCloud of Orbit DVD in North Carolina, said he expanded his video rental business into an emporium of vintage and retro popular culture with video game cartridges, comics, graphic novels, classic movie posters and collectible toys.

“Rental is still a big category for us, but we saw the writing on the wall and went in a different direction,” said McCloud, who calls himself “the king of dead media.”

Yet even last week Movie Market was still signing up a new rental customer.

Anthony Figueiredo, global studies teacher and head of the football program at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, wandered in on Thursday to find a video to watch during a “pizza and movie night” he was organizing for the weekend.

Although he has lived in Canaan since 2014, it was Figueiredo’s first time to the video store which he suddenly found convenient because he “didn’t have a movie handy around campus” to show the students.

The movie he found at Movie Market fit the bill perfectly: The Sandlot, a 1993 coming-of-age baseball flick.

“I wanted a comedy that was timeless and the younger kids hadn’t seen before,” he said. “This place is really cool. I can’t believe how many movies there are in here.”

But he’s not sure he’ll be back to rent another video before the store closes at the end of the month.

As a teacher and coach, “I typically don’t have a lot of time” to watch movies, he said.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.