Contributed by Harit Joshi.
No name adorns the shop anymore.
All that passerbys will read is: “Closing out, sale, movies, CDs”, flashed in big fonts when you visit Merritt Movie Experts on 1976 Voght Street.
Once known as THE destination one-stop-shop for all your entertainment kicks, the closure of the 17-year-old establishment is a grim reality for the movies and CDs rental business in the age of Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, etc.
At the dimly-lit store and with a dripping tap, owner Tom Hood is doing most of the running around of sorting and packing CDs, DVDs and Blu Ray films into cartons. Most of the shelves are up for sale in the basement of the store.
Merritt Movie Experts wasn’t just about movies – the Sweet Spot was a popular attraction as well that satisfies your cravings for “movie-like” popcorns, fudge and ice creams.
On BC Day on August 7, Merritt Movie Experts put out the signs of closure. The reasons were aplenty.
“The town of Merritt has endured a lot in the last five to six years. First the fire, then floods, COVID-19 and now the rising inflation. We tried to hang in by looking for a new location as well (Merritt Movie Experts had moved from Quilchena to Voght street in 2020), but nothing worked out and ultimately it was time to take the tough decision,” said Hood while taking a bit of a breather amidst the stressful process of winding up.
Hood is proud to boast that his collection is one of the best and rare that would be tough to find even on the internet. There is nostalgia galore as one takes a round of each aisle. For a movie buff, there would arguably be no better place than this.
One also wonders whether Merritt Movie Experts failed to evolve with time in this digital and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-induced world?
“Not really,” said manager Tina, who has stood like a rock in these tough times with Hood.
“It is certainly not because of Amazon and Netflix that we are shutting down. It is a wrong notion to perceive. But I think the rental movie business has become a niche for sure,” Tina insisted.
Although gaming was an option, it wasn’t explored as it would have meant competition to another establishment in the town. “We never intended to eat into someone else’s business for our survival,” said Tina.
Hood, who has been in the movie rentals business for over three decades, felt there are still a lot of takers for DVDs and CDs.
“A lot of my collection is rare. We get inquiries from all across the country and also from America. A lot of the movies from the 40s, 50, 60s and 70s are not available on these streaming platforms,” said Hood before drawing attention to the potential hazards of frequent access of streaming platforms.
Hood hinted that the next generation is becoming somewhat of slaves to these tech giants.
“An Amazon or Netflix has its own advantage where most of the content is at your fingertips. But we are failing to understand that by using these apps, we are allowing them to invade our private lives. They collect all our data, our preferences, likes and dislikes and tailor the content accordingly. No one even knows that in all likelihood Amazon or Netflix may have edited a good chunk of the movie in order to fit it into their timeframe. How unfair is this practice? By subscribing to these streaming platforms, we are basically playing into their hands. They can mold us the way they want to and we will have no control over it,” cautioned Hood.
Hood is bidding adieu to Merritt by the end of this month, but the store in Logan Lake will continue in business. So, all is not lost for Merrittonians, who are looking for nostalgia at home with winter just around the corner.