Jeremy Aldrich -- July 23rd, 2008
“The first is usually in New York City or San Francisco, but we have it in Harrisonburg, and I’m proud of that,” says Brad Driver with a smile. Driver, a Bridgewater native and owner of the 9-store “Backstage Video” chain, is talking about his newest endeavor, which is located in the same shopping center as McAlister’s Deli near Harrisonburg Crossing. The centerpiece of the new store, and the first thing you notice when you walk inside, are the giant computer kiosks that take up almost a quarter of the space. These kiosks are what set the store apart, and they’re what make several of the store’s technological innovations possible.
Innovation 1 is the touch-screen interface that allow you to not only select what movies or games to rent, but also to search by director or actor or genre or release date or any number of characteristics (and the search is available in several languages too, including Spanish). Some movies in the catalog even have short trailers so you can gauge your interest before making a final decision. Innovation 2 is what goes on inside the kiosk, where a computerized arm finds your selection (from the thousands of titles in the library) and sends it through the slot to your waiting hands. Innovation 3 is the store’s website, where you can search for in-stock movies from home and reserve them for two hours until you can get to the store (if you’ve already set up an account). And innovation 4 is that this is all available 24 hours a day. Your orange membership card can get you in the front door even when employees aren’t there.
Driver found out about the kiosks during a convention in Las Vegas, and decided to bring them to the Shenandoah Valley. They’re the first on the East Coast, using a technology originally developed in Italy.
This combination of IMDB-like search, Amazon-like warehouse technology, the ability to choose your rental before you leave your house, 24-hour convenience, and of course a little bit of the “wow” factor are sure to give other video stores a run for their money. Driver said he hopes to appeal to local college students as well as those who want a combination of Netflix convenience and Blockbuster immediate gratification. “I think this really screams young and hip,” he says.
Yes, it’s a video and game rental place, but it’s not like the other stores Driver owns, even though it too has a shelf-browsing section and the ability to rent from a checkout counter during business hours. To trumpet the difference, he gave this location a slightly different name (Backstage Movies-n-Games) and it has its own mascot (Oscar the owl).
Membership is free, and new accounts get a five dollar credit on their cards. All rentals are for seven days, with games costing $6.88, new releases costing $3.98, library titles going for $2.48, and specials that are available for $1 (all prices already include tax). The store has its official grand opening on Friday, August 1, but has been open since late last week for early adopters.