Friday, February 25, 2011
More than 80 percent of households in the United States owned VCRs in the late 1990s, and these households were filled with potential Hollywood Video customers. As a result Hollywood’s target audience was quite broad. The company’s advertising agency indicated that Hollywood’s target market consisted of those aged 18 to 45 as well as suburban families with children. Wattles discussed the company’s consumer target in an interview in the Wall Street Transcript in 1994 and said, ‘‘ . . . when the advertising agencies ask what your demographic profile is, I say, ‘Alive.’’’ Nearly everyone, Wattles elaborated, enjoyed watching movies. ‘‘One thing that’s nice about our business is our demographic profile. It’s so simple. Obviously there are demographic profiles of people who watch more movies than others but the curve is very slight. We’re not just a teenage business, or a midlife business, or an X-generation business.’’ To appeal to this wide audience, Hollywood Video stores focused on the one thing all the customers shared—the love of movies. ‘‘Our store design, our marketing, and our advertising reflect the name and image of Hollywood,’’ he explained. ‘‘We try to create an exciting environment that is movie and/or movie star oriented.’’ Though Hollywood Video’s audience was sizeable, many viewers were growing increasingly distracted by new entertainment technologies and options, such as pay-per-view television programming, digital video disks (DVD), the Internet, and expanded offerings from cable television and direct broadcast satellite. Industry analysts labeled the video-rental market mature, with little growth left. According to a study for the Video Software Rental Association, total revenue from the rental market declined 4.2 percent in 1997. Tom Wolzien, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein, pointed to a 1996 poll of 1,000 households with satellite television programming that discovered a 70 percent drop in video rentals. Still, many believed an audience for video rentals remained. Roffman Miller Associates’ Marvin Roffman told the Los Angeles Daily News: ‘‘There were a lot of people on Wall Street that were giving the death knell to the industry . . . [b]ut it’s probably not going to die for a long time. Home video is still a very viable business.’’ Hollywood Video believed this as well, and to continue to attract customers the company implemented many customeroriented policies, such as lower rental prices, guaranteed availability of popular rentals, and five-day rentals on every video in the store. According to the Portland Oregonian, Wattles was not intimidated by new technologies or forecasts of doom; Hollywood Video would, Wattles stated, change with the times and with clientele tastes. ‘‘As long as interest in movies continues, . . . there will be opportunities,’’ Wattles vowed.
Hollywood Video first opened its doors in 1988 with one store in Portland, Oregon, run by owner Wattles and his wife. From the outset Hollywood Video stores were large, brightly lit with an abundance of neon, and had 50 to 70 television monitors blasting the latest video offers. Employees dressed in red bow ties and cummerbunds. Every detail was designed to mimic the excitement and bright lights of Hollywood. And like Hollywood and the movie industry, Hollywood Video moved quickly and aggressively—only five years after its formation and with a total of 16 stores, the company went public. With the acquisition of Texas video-rental chain Video Central in 1994, the number of Hollywood Video stores rose to 100, and by 1995 the company was the third largest video-rental chain in the United States. By 1996 Hollywood had assumed the numbertwo position, and the company reported net income in 1996 of $20.63 million, a surge of 75 percent over net income in 1995, which was $11.79 million. The company had more than 500 stores in 29 states by October of 1996. Wattles told the Portland Oregonian, ‘‘In the third quarter [of 1996], we averaged better than a new store opening every 36 hours . . . and in the fourth quarter we plan on averaging over a new store every 24 hours.’’ In 1997 the company opened 356 new stores, and net income continued to rise—in the second quarter of 1997, Hollywood enjoyed an 83 percent increase in profits.
Hollywood Entertainment Corporation hurtled into 1998 at a screaming expansion pace for its chain of Hollywood Video retail stores—the company planned to open more than 353 new stores in 1998 to bring the total number up to 1,260 by year’s end. The decade-old chain of superstores had quickly become the second largest video-rental chain in the nation, and chairman, founder, and CEO Mark J. Wattles believed that Hollywood Video had ample opportunity for growth. ‘‘[In 1993] we were a 15 store chain and embarked on a very aggressive store opening schedule.’’Wattles announced in a prepared statement. ‘‘Last week [April 13, 1998] we opened our 1,000th video superstore and we plan on opening our 2,000th within the next three years. With over 20,000 employees, and a very strong management team, we are not only focused on growth, but the continued improvement of our operations, as well.’’
To position Hollywood Video as the superlative entertainment store, Hollywood Entertainment launched its first major branding campaign in May 1998. Developed by
New York-based Cliff Freeman and Partners, an agency known for its creative, cutting-edge work, the ‘‘Welcome to Hollywood’’ campaign consisted of nine television spots and eight radio ads. The radio ads followed the theme ‘‘Sixty Second Theater’’ and provided humorous synopses of popular movie plots. The television ads were set in Hollywood Video stores and featured store employees in amusing behind-the-scenes situations. Wattles discussed the purpose of the campaign—estimated to have cost anywhere from $11 million to $20 million—at the company shareholders’ meeting in May 1998. ‘‘We want to be a brand so powerful that when you think of movies you think of Hollywood [Video],’’ he said. President and COO Jeff Yapp agreed. ‘‘We want our customers to think of Hollywood Video as their inside connection to Hollywood and the world of entertainment,’’ Yapp said in a prepared statement. ‘‘As our mission statement says, ‘We are Hollywood. We are entertainment.’ ’’