Business

Curtains will close on Bainbridge Island’s Silver Screen video rental store

Jerry Clark stands in the aisles of Silver Screen Video. The Bainbridge Island rental store will close on Aug. 31. - Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review
Jerry Clark stands in the aisles of Silver Screen Video. The Bainbridge Island rental store will close on Aug. 31.
— image credit: Richard D. Oxley / Bainbridge Island Review

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Silver Screen Video has spent a quarter of a century woven into the fabric of the Bainbridge Island community. August marked the 25th anniversary for the local and independent rental store.

This month, however, will also be its last.

“We are closing because the business is no longer viable,” said owner Jerry Clark.

“We’ve lost over 50 percent of our volume over the last five years, maybe more,” he said. “That is, dollars in business.”

Silver Screen Video will remain open through the month, and will continue to rent DVDs and Blu-rays until about a week before it closes on Saturday, Aug. 31.

Starting Friday, Aug. 9, the store begins a massive sale to unload its inventory of more than 20,000 titles. Most of the store’s DVDs and Blu-rays will be available for sale, aside from a few titles that it is obligated to save.

At 72, and a 40-plus year veteran entrepreneur, Clark understands that businesses end. He does, however, have a certain soft spot for Silver Screen. It’s become more than just a business for Clark, and it truly is a family business.

“We are extremely thankful to our customers,” he said.

“They’ve allowed us to make a living. We feel very sorry. We got customers that depend on us. We’ve been their source of entertainment for years, and it hurts us to have to do this.”

Clark can cite customers who make weekly visits to the store to pick out an armful of DVDs; names and faces that he’s learned over the years. The store has regularly sponsored Little League events and local classroom causes.

And he has given quite a few first jobs to young islanders as well.

“I’ve had probably, oh, 150 to 200 kids that have come through here that were high school age or older,” Clark said. “We feel we’ve been a part of the community.”

“It is an end of an era,” he said.

The age of the video store has been relatively short-lived in the grand scheme of industries. But during its heyday, it made quite an impact.

The 1980s saw a rise in independent video stores. Home video technology allowed average Joes — for the first time — the ability to watch cinematic favorites, and new releases from the comfort of their living rooms. Large chain stores grew out of the decade and sprawled across the ’90s.

A visit to the video store became a tradition unto itself. Friends and families journeyed to browse shelves and plan the night’s entertainment. Film fanatics gathered and discussed the latest news in the cinema scene. It was an aspect of life many could relate to — as sitcoms such as Seinfeld could attest — from late fees to the rush for the latest release.

Silver Screen Video on Bainbridge Island rode this industry wave. Clark purchased the business in 1988, when it was called Viking Video and located in the Winslow Green on the corner of Winslow Way and Madison Avenue. With his son Jeff, Clark grew the family business. The store began with only 1,000 titles in a location of approximately 1,000-square-feet. Silver Screen moved to a 5,000-square-foot location on Hildebrand Lane in the ’90s. But then business leveled off.

In October 2012, the store moved to its current location, with 1,800-square-feet, in the Village Shopping Center. The move to the new location was an attempt to keep the business going by cutting down on costs.

But technology, once again, had changed everything.

“Technology is driving the bus, and the bus is full of downloading and streaming and everything else,” Clark said.

“By and large, most video businesses have closed; there’s less than 10 percent of what was there,” he said. “And that’s because of the Internet, downloading, the advent of the DVR — people can record everything and re-watch it — and streaming. Then you got Netflix.”

Clark noted that studio support has also dwindled for independent shops such as his, and shifted more toward selling and streaming.

Within a decade, technology wreaked havoc on the video industry. Mail-based rentals, on-demand cable, Internet streaming, and more each took a piece of the industry that neighborhood video stores once dominated.

“Entertainment is one big pie,” Clark said. “And when you continue to take a piece of pie here, a piece of pie there, and a piece of pie there, you only have X amount of that pie available to draw from.”

Clark knows this well. Silver Screen has watched its piece of the pie narrow in a relatively short period of time and starve out the business. The store has retained a few faithful, supportive customers that make it a part of their routine.

“We’ve made a lot of friends,” Clark said. “We are going to miss being part of the community.”

Community Events, April 2014

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