Lost Weekend Video has been operating for four months as a kiosk inside the lobby of the New Mission Theater, and its owners are now figuring out how to keep their longstanding movie rental business alive while appealing to a new clientele.
“We have just been sort of struggling to get back on our feet,” said David Hawkins, one of Lost Weekend’s three founders. The move, he said, wiped out the small business financially. “It was a super struggle to move a 20-year-old business even a block away.”
For close to two decades, the video rental store was run out of a storefront at 1034 Valencia St. The space was regularly used to host comedy shows and to store some 25,000 to 30,000 VHS, DVD and Blu-ray titles.
That collection still exists – with a majority of it now tucked away in a back room of the recently renovated Alamo Drafthouse’s New Mission Theater at 2550 Mission St.
Burdened with increasing rents but more so the rapid rise of online video-streaming providers – “folks just don’t rent movies anymore,” Hawkins said with a shrug – Lost Weekend agreed to share space with the Alamo Drafthouse after the theater chain approached them last October.
Hawkins said he views the merger as an opportunity for his antiquated business to figure out how to “restructure the renting concept.” As part of that experiment, Lost Weekend has expanded to selling T-shirts, books, posters and other film-oriented retail.
The video store has also extended its hours of operation and rental periods. Figuring out what the millennials want, said Hawkins, is the store’s new challenge.
“In general it is a younger crowd,” he said of the theater-goers. “Our original customer base has gotten older and older, because we are generally servicing people who don’t have technology, and those tend to be the older folks.”
A few theater patrons browsing the shelves that form aisles in the New Mission’s lobby stopped to flip through DVD titles and inquire about Lost Weekend’s jukebox before disappearing into the theater’s dark screening room.
While failing to rent any of his titles, Hawkins nonetheless took the opportunity to chat with the movie-goers queueing at the ticket booth next to his kiosk. He is optimistic that the video store’s new digs will generate renewed interest in renting movies.
“We bring a little bit of not just the old neighborhood feel, but a little bit of grit – we kind of mess the place up a little bit,” he said of the Alamo. “It’s so pristine and beautiful and then we come in here in a more funky way.”
Last year, the Alamo also purchased the almost four-decade-old archive of Le Video, another iconic video store that operated in the Sunset, though the plan to rent out Le Video’s 100,000 titles alongside Lost Weekend’s collection never came to fruition.
“They were thinking about bringing all the video stores in town under one tent and creating one giant superstore,” said Hawkins, adding that Le Video’s owners were not interested in the partnership because they “wanted to close.”
“Everybody thinks we are curating their video stock, and that is not the case. The thing is, there is not room for ours [at the Alamo] and they have probably twice as much as we do,” he said, adding that the collection may be made available to the public in the future. For now, Le Video’s titles are stored by the Alamo at an off-site location.
Hawkins said that losing the “autonomy of having your own space” was difficult, but he acknowledged that the progress in technology made the move inevitable.
“We were basically doing tap dances on the sidewalk just to get people’s attention,” he said of Lost Weekend. To make ends meet, they hosted as many as four or five comedy shows a week to compensate for the declining demand for video rentals. “We weren’t going to survive there.”