Save Lost Weekend Video! An update on the Valencia Street stalwart's struggle for survival

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The Lost Weekend storefront with its iconic marquee sign.
Photo from www.lostweekendvideo.com

Dateline: San Francisco. Distressing news, via Facebook, on the "all the cool shit is in danger" front, with a post late Fri/20 by Valencia Street stalwart Lost Weekend Video:

"Times are tough at Lost Weekend Video! We’ve seen business suddenly drop by 30 percent just in the last few months, on top of the 60 percent hit we’ve already taken over the last few years. This has thrown us into pretty immediate crisis. We’d been working with an architect and the City to open a larger version of the Cinecave [Lost Weekend's basement screening room/performance venue] in the back half of the main space upstairs, but have found that it’s impossible due to a combination of the layout of the building and Valencia Street business restrictions. That has left us pretty much out of options."

The post went on to say the video store is "looking at the Le Video solution to keep us open" — i.e., hoping to bring in a co-tenant to share costs, as the Inner Sunset venue did earlier this year. "It’d be great to find something that fit in with our old school Valencia vibe and could provide an opportunity for someone who wouldn’t be able to afford Valencia Street otherwise." 

The post ended on a cautiously optimistic note: "We’re a year away from 20, it’d be nice to see it!"

Reached at Lost Weekend Monday afternoon, co-owner David Hawkins underlines the fact that business has been "plummeting." As for the store's immediate plans, "We're basically just trying to figure out a way to stay alive at some level. We're looking at doing something along the lines of what Le Video did, sharing the space. We've put out some feelers, and we're getting some bites on it." 

A partnership with a record store is one possibility. "We're looking for something that will sort of match what we're doing somewhat, and keep that vibe alive."

In general, though, "We're exploring ideas now of how we could utilize part of our space to keep a video store open. That's been our goal all along. We realize that you can't probably sustain a full-scale video store in the city the way you used to. So it's just a matter of trying to come up with the right formula."

The cozy Cinecave venue has "done what we were hoping it would do," in terms of bringing in audiences for screenings and comedy shows. But "video rentals have continued to fall off the map, moreso than we even anticipated."

Though the decline of the video-rental biz is a nationwide trend, thanks to On Demand and Netflix changing the way consumers view movies at home, the ever-shifting Valencia Street landscape has also played a part in Lost Weekend's fortunes.

"Like I tell people all the time, back in the old days when you moved, you found your record store, your video store, your bookstore. Those were the kinds of things you looked for in a neighborhood. And that's not the case anymore. Things that can be shipped or digitally transmitted seem to be taken for granted as the way it's gonna be — particularly as a younger demographic moves in that has not grown up utilizing these kinds of places. They have even less inclination to go seek them out."

At present, Lost Weekend hasn't yet gotten to the point of setting up a crowdfunding page, as Le Video did. Right now, Hawkins says the best thing that Lost Weekend supporters can do is realize "this is not just about video stores. This is about so many different kinds of retail that are going to disappear from all kinds of neighborhoods as this goes on. And if that's the way that everybody wants to go, then that's the way we're gonna go. But if people stop and think about what's cool about having some diversity of retail in your neighborhood — there's something to be said about these kinds of places where you can just go in, browse around, and you don't necessarily have to buy anything. It's place to hang out and meet people, talk to people."

"[People need to] come to the realization that you have to utilize these places. Go buy a record, don't download it. Go buy something physical from your neighborhood, because otherwise that place is not gonna be there. That's the main message that I think needs to be gotten out there."

We'll keep following this story and update the news on Lost Weekend as it comes. In the meantime, the Cinecave is screening World Cup matches and, as always, Lost Weekend's vast library is available for all your rental needs. Stop by and RENT! VIDEOS! (Pro-tip: the staff recommendations will never steer you wrong.) 

Comments

Even though I feel sort of ok about late fees, like I'm keeping LW afloat by paying them, and usually they're good about cutting the amount in half (unasked) for the regulars, I do think the fees represent a part of the business model even more antiquated than the VHS rentals and my fear of racking up a late fee when I'm not positive I'll be able to watch the whole series of whatever I've rented in one go actually inhibits me from renting when I am on the fence. I'd rent twice as often if there were no late fees to contend with, and I wouldn't be hanging onto those films forever by any means.

Also, renting equipment might not be a totally bad angle. Like "hey, hipsters, rent this VCR and watch something never released on DVD to impress your buddies at your 80s nostalgia night."

Or, I dunno, more t-shirts...

Posted by Guest on Jul. 05, 2014 @ 12:27 am
Let

My first thought was geez I haven 't seen Adam in years. We still have a fridge covered in family photo stickers from back in the day when our company occupied 1051 across the street. My second thought: magazines are returnable if they aren 't sold, and old school arcade games seem to be one of the few old school things that resonate with our new tech savvy neighbors. The neighborhood you helped to create is gone , everyone anonymously bashing one another while under cover. Best of luck to y'all and I'll try and stop by soon. Ps shrinkwrap the magazines or you'll be a free library. And good luck to you!

Posted by Anew guest on Jul. 01, 2014 @ 4:28 pm

When this place moved in it was gentrification....

Posted by Guest on Jun. 26, 2014 @ 8:54 am

It will be interesting when this "whole new generation" to which SF "now belongs" has their own children, and those kids find out that there were once stores that rented films that these kids have never heard about because their personal algorithms make it too difficult to find anything not promoted by the money-makers. At that point stores like Urban Outfitters may rent classic videos back to us. After all, my 15-year-old stepdaughter just bought her boyfriend some Bob Dylan vinyl there.

Posted by kwithay on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 11:11 pm

Calling the owners and fans of LW "Luddites" is an easy smear. Lost Weekend has always been about the intersection of community and art. They made a huge improvement to their space when they created the Cinecave, which serves as a gathering place for people who want to see live comedy and screen movies without having to rent a large theater. Plus, LW has always been an interesting workplace for musicians and artists to get a decent job while still pursing their art. Why is any of that a rejection of technology or antiquated thinking?

Posted by ke on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 4:56 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

Hipsters have ruined Valencia Street.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

cool urban conduit. I can live with that, and without Lost Weekend and it's world-class VHS tape collection.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

"all the cool shit is in danger" front.

Which is another way of saying the times are a changing, like they always have, but this time it's our era that's passing away.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:16 pm

@Guest - Is there some sort of contest to post the most vapid observation? Yes, times change. Gosh.

Posted by Jym on Jul. 01, 2014 @ 7:20 am

the passing of the old ways and customs but then, as we age, we see our own ways and customs pass into obsolescence and feel a hopeless nostalgia.

Wanna buy my used 8-track cartridges?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 01, 2014 @ 7:51 am

This city now belongs to a whole new generation. The things we thought were cool now appear hopelessly out of touch. I'm trying to get used to it. #BooHoo. #VanishingSF LOL.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:37 pm

Things like a strong middle class, equitable economy, god, so out of fashion now. TIMES CHANGE BITCHES! Everything is relative and there is no universal good or bad, just different! obviously...

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 10:33 am

What are the building restrictions that prevent a larger venue from being added in the back?

I think it could be cool if the emphasis was more on live and community events: there seems to be a growing interest in that as opposed to video rental.

Maybe replacing the racks of videos with binders with their cases in front.

Or the venue could showcasing particular movies unavailable on netflix/amazon and then have their other titles available to rent, or collections available to binge-watch.

Saw Spaceman Bill Lee there a few years ago, really nice place.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

The basement at Lost Weekend is currently THE BEST place in San Francisco to see independent stand-up comedy. There are shows there 4-5 nights a week (Thursday-Sunday and occasionally Wednesdays). It's become a destination spot for out of town comics visiting the city. Check out their schedule of shows here:
https://www.facebook.com/CynicCave

Posted by Matt Gubser on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

They held a Campos fundraiser there a few months ago.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 3:34 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

Ummmm, you guys realize that Lost Weekend is the best alternative comedy venue in San Francisco, right? And you can argue all you want about technology and luddites or whatever you want, but the second you start losing venues for art the second your city becomes not a city at all, but I don't know, maybe you just want to Netflix comedy and music too.

Posted by JOey on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

Maybe patrons could pay to watch the film they've rented in the performance space down stairs for an hourly rate. This would not be selling tickets to the film which would be a rights issue but just renting the space to watch the movie on a larger screen.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

Hiya -

LWV co-owner here. Honestly the main reason that I haven't quite given up on the shop is that I don't think people realize the resource they lose when the last video stores are gone. I spend all day on the phone with people calling me up looking for a film they couldn't believe they couldn't find online. People drive from all over the Bay Area (I have a customer who drives up from San Jose twice a week to rent & others from across all the bridges), because there are thousands of films that haven't been made available on Netflix, Amazon, iTunes or even the pirate sites yet. I don't fault people for using all of those services, as they're a great deal & they have plenty of stuff that we don't have the pockets to carry, but people don't notice the absence of something until they're looking for it.

I opened LWV because I love movies & I want to keep it open because the movie lover in me would be bummed to not be able to watch all the cool films we have. If you're a casual fan, your life might not be affected by the loss of video stores, just as with book or record stores. But if movies are important to you then places like ours or Le Video or Video Wave or Faye's should remain in your sights. Basically just keep us in the rotation. Use all of those other services, but occasionally throw us a bone so we're there when you need us. We'd much prefer people to make a point to rent a movie once a month than to take donations, which is why we're hoping to cut costs with a complementary co-tenant. If it doesn't work out or there aren't enough die-hard movie fans left, then we can close & it'll be OK. Most of the video store owners that I know, myself included, are living mostly on savings these days, so none of us want to drag this process out forever. The remaining video stores in the Bay Area just want to let everyone know what's going on so that there's time for some public discussion about it before we all close & SF is left without one. Either way, we appreciate the debate.

Thanks!

Posted by Christy on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

Same with record stores. Not everything is online. It never will be for all kinds of reasons... marketability, copyright, etc.

The internet is great, but when you ONLY use that, you're still censoring the palette of content you get, not unlike people used to with television.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 10:38 am

For those who travel a long way.

LWV was my favorite place to rent before I moved to the Inner Sunset. I still have my LWV card but haven't been there in a decade.

And of course the download library is expanding all the time.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

You are in an excellent location with large pool of potential customers. Find the right partner, update your business model, and you can thrive.

Best of luck!

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 3:56 pm

So logical. So entitled. You seem like the exact kind of people I want out of the neighborhood. Lost Weekend is the best, but you probably wouldn't notice because you're too busy being smug. Just keep staring at your phone. Don't look up. Just stare at your phone.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 8:46 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 9:16 am

Make sure you rewind your videotape before returning it. Otherwise, it's an extra dollar.

Posted by Chromefields on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 8:59 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 9:22 am

Superior in every way to this terminal business model. May it go the way of the black bookstores and every other crumbling bastion of Old Commerce. It's ironic that this tech nirvana we inhabit is so populated by braying Luddites.

Posted by Chromefields on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:40 am

Ironic that your "tech nirvana" celebrates the death of "black bookstores."

Nice that you capitalized "Luddites" though.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 10:30 am

We do still capitalize them, I've heard tell.

We don't need black bookstores any more than we need white bookstores, was the point. Careful! Your knee is jerking.

Posted by Chromefields on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 11:11 am

Oh, sorry, I misjudged. Your "tech nirvana" has an equal opportunity disdain for independent stores that help define what makes San Francisco a physically interesting place to live.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

"Independent": hopelessly dated or out of touch; that which is favored by liberals desperate to live in a time that has passed and will not return; stuff olds like (c.r., "buggy whip"; "Blackberry").

Posted by Chromefields on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 6:11 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 10:40 am

The whole "death of black bookstores" comment referenced the closing of Marcus Books. Their business model was unworkable because it served such a tiny, niche market. I'm not exactly sure that this video store can survive but I'd put it's chances as better than those of Marcus Books. A few months ago I was in Alameda and walked by a video rental place that seemed to be pretty packed on a Friday evening. I don't know if they were all actually renting but there were a lot of people inside.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

Outside of fried chicken and weave hair joints, targeting only blacks is a losing proposition

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:11 pm

"Fried chicken and weave hair joints." Seriously dude??? C'mon now. You just negated my whole argument (I was the one who just posted before you) with that asinine comment.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:39 pm

I simply went beyond it.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 6:43 am

Seems to me that if you're going to rely on donations, then it's time to just legally become a nonprofit and pursue it honestly.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 23, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

But the model is busted. I used to go there a lot in the 1990's and rent VHS tapes. They updated to DVD's but with on-demand downloads, the entire business model is a busted flush.

Le Video has enough cachet to survive, but I doubt that LW does.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 24, 2014 @ 6:45 am

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