By Nicholas Cohen
Orbit DVD on Haywood Road remains as one of the last video stores in Asheville and many are wondering what happened to their rental section.
According to Orbit DVD Employee, Danny Blaire, the shop has been a staple business in the Asheville community for years and he is not surprised that more people are asking about rentals.
In light of this, Blaire said he empathizes with local cinephiles but urges them to understand that Orbit DVD is not just a video store anymore. While the rentals are popular, they comprised only about 3% of their sales.
“Physical media is having a comeback for sure,” Blaire said. “I think for some people a lot of it is you never know when something is going to come off streaming.”
Due to the increasing interest in video games and memorabilia, Orbit DVD’s priorities have shifted and now allocates most of their resources toward their growing digital market.
According to Blaire, more customers are looking to Orbit DVD for video games, collectible toys and other hard to find merchandise, with some of the special edition items costing upward of $200.
Blaire said Despite the popularity of rentals, the service wasn’t making enough money to keep it as a priority.
“We just started the website over quarantine because we weren’t open for in-store shopping,” Blaire said. “Since then, we’ve gone from being just a small brick and mortar shop in Asheville to shipping internationally.”
The increased sales on their website has Orbit DVD’s employees working hard to rearrange the store in order to accommodate a growing inventory.
According to Blaire, they are running into the possibility of having to increase their space.
Blaire said one of the biggest struggles with this change lies in figuring out where to put all of the rental DVD cases amid the expansion of Orbit DVD’s video game section.
“We had to expand our video game section because it’s just blown up so much,” Blaire said. “The whole back room right now is video games, whereas it used to just be empty DVD cases for the rentals”.
In addition to finding more space in the store, Orbit DVD’s employees have not forgotten about the rentals and are in the process of completely reworking their rental system with the intent of making it easier for patrons to use in the future.
According to Orbit DVD employee, Tye Krebs, some customers have reached out to him confused by the change in focus at Orbit DVD and wonder if the store might close its doors, doing away with the rental service.
Krebs said he wants to assure customers that Orbit DVD is flourishing and does plan on bringing back rentals at some point.
“Possibly a year from now,” Krebs said.
As a fun place to rent videos near campus, Orbit DVD was a popular haven for UNC Asheville students.
According to UNCA graduate and frequent customer at Orbit DVD, Han Henson, he misses renting at Orbit and is looking forward to seeing what steps the shop will take to bring back their rental section in the future.
Henson said he is proud of the final project produced by his group, senior year, in their new media class and looked forward to sharing it with anybody he could. Henson’s senior project, which was created along with UNCA Graduates Alejandro Figueroa, Gabby Broadman and Zach Weston-Farber, consisted of a 30-minute parody of a children’s television show originally recorded as a VHS tape, but was also burnt onto a few DVD’s.
“We used video, puppetry, graphic design, two-dimensional and three-dimensional animation and Adobe After Effects work,” Henson said.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced Orbit DVD to close its doors for a while, Henson’s group chatted with some of the employees at Orbit DVD about filmmaking and showed them the video they created.
According to Henson, the employees showed genuine interest in his group and their work. Impressed by their video, the Orbit DVD staff allowed Henson to put a copy of the project in the back to be rented out.
Henson said the support from Orbit DVD was a great boon to him and was ecstatic to let them rent out the video.
“We never got any money or asked for any to keep our work there,” Henson said. “It was just a fun way to get it out and it felt like a piece of us was immortalized in the city.”
However, the current lack of rentals doesn’t just affect Orbit DVD’s staff and customers — it also affects students whose videos could be potentially rented.
According to Henson, he has enjoyed renting videos from Orbit DVD for years and thinks that the rental situation is unfortunate.
Henson said if Orbit DVD isn’t doing any rentals at this time, nobody will be able to view his film.
“I could always ask for recommendations and have a fun movie night,” Henson said. “Now I can buy DVD’s from them but it’s a little more difficult to buy a movie you haven’t seen before.”