Walking around and checking out their selection, it’s like the movie rental business never went away. For a lifelong movie buff (and Paradise Video customer since 1987), it’s a treasure trove for film buffs who need to find more obscure titles that Redbox, Netflix or even the local library doesn’t have. Just strolling down their aisles, I find wow-they’ve-got-it titles like “Rapa Nui,” or the unauthorized TV cut of “Dune” or Anthony Hopkins in the bone chilling “Magic” or, the first movie I ever wrote a review for at the age of 9, “Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.”
In a time where, if you want to see a buried cinematic treasure, everyone either “blind buys” a movie off of Amazon or watches some heavily pixilated compromise online, rental stores like Paradise Video, then and now, offer you the chance to see the movie of your choice in the best way possible, without having to own or download it.
The store offers a terrific deal for movie buffs: you can rent an older DVD title for three days for $1.75 or you can rent one new title and an older one for free.
I spoke with Calvin Inouye, one of the three originators of the store. The legend of how Paradise Video came to be goes like this: in the early 1980’s, three friends, Jeff Yamanishi, Alfred Cantorna and Calvin Inouye, would get together and watch videocassettes that Yamanishi, a former KNUI DJ, would purchase on Oahu. At the time, not every household had a VCR, though the debate between the VHS and Betamax formats were discussed among cinephiles and technology buffs. At some point, one of the three buddies suggested, “how about we rent these movies to customers?” Starting from Yamanishi’s initial collection of 50 (which, according to Inouye, he used to carry around in a suitcase), their first store opened in 1981.
Upon the later arrival of Blockbuster Video and the mega-store outlet, Paradise Video remained focused on quality and building a library. Where their initial copies grew into a trove of 30,000 videocassettes, their DVD collection is now around 11,000 titles.
“We worked on creating a more diversified selection, ” says Inouye, “since we’re dealing with locals and tourists. Action movies and martial arts titles have always been big with locals.”
I wondered if they ever had any famous customers. According to Inouye: “Well, Eric Gilliom is a customer of ours and Jon Voight once came in and signed the box for ‘Deliverance.'”
When asked how they maintain their business in the age of Netflix, Inouye’s answer is simple: “We offer customer service, in an age when people still want to have a conversation and have hands-on service. Schools come to us, too. Now that Blockbuster’s gone, we have three or four new customers a week.”
“This started as a hobby for Jeff. We were three friends starting a business. Thirty-four years later, we’re still friends and still business partners. What we hear the most in terms of feedback is, ‘I’m glad you guys are still here!’ We haven’t raised our prices in ten years. Thank you to all the loyal customers!”