Trading Up?

Buzz loves Movie Trading Company for lots of reasons: the rent-before-you-buy policy, racks full of cheap secondhand DVDs and videos (a lot of which are hard to find), its lenient rental policy, the fact it's a local chain with a familiar and friendly neighborhood vibe. OK, so mostly we like the place because it ain't Blockbuster. Pardon. Make that wasn't Blockbuster.

Last week, we received an anonymous e-mail--from what appears to be a disgruntled Movie Trading Company employee--informing us that the 4-year-old, seven-store chain, with headquarters in Plano and outlets in Dallas, Arlington and Lewisville, is selling out to Dallas-based Blockbuster Inc. According to sources, the new company will be called the Trading Zone.

The name Starbucks, of course, was already taken.

"Be sure to tell all of our friends that the most sterile, family-oriented environment awaits their dollar, that they better have Harry Potter back at midnight or expect a harassing call at noon sharp every day thereafter," says our e-mail buddy's missive. "Tell them to expect nothing but faceless, corporate polo-shirted drones who couldn't give a Whit Stillman about good movies like Metropolitan...but we'll be more than happy to shove the newest Freddie Prinze Jr. pabulum into your plastic bag as we push you out the door."

The parties involved don't deny the news, but won't exactly own up to it, either. "It's just a well-founded rumor," is how Movie Trading Company's Chief Operating Officer Leo Kane dismisses it. A Blockbuster rep says only, "We can't confirm or deny anything that may be floating out there."

Now, we're not exactly in a position to judge, being part of a chain, and some of us have known Movie Trading Company's founder Mark Kane since 1990, back when he was selling used CDs at the Vikon Village flea market to put himself through SMU law school. Mark grew that little biz into a mighty empire: He started Movie Trading Company in 1998 only after selling his CD Warehouse chain to an Oklahoma-based company, which has taken the concept worldwide. So, like, mazel tov and all that.

But, still, news of the impending sale got us wondering exactly how the notoriously family-friendly Blockbuster will alter the Movie Trading Company concept, which lets you rent before you buy and plays nice with its neighbors. Can't really see Blockbuster, the company that wouldn't even carry The Last Temptation of Christ back in the day, letting its Oak Lawn location keep its "Community Favorites" section, which is stocked with gay-themed catalog and old John Waters movies. Leo Kane says Blockbuster doesn't plan on changing any of the stores' existing policies--after all, "it's the entire concept and the current policies that have been so successful"--but does add that there's nothing in the contract explicitly stipulating as much. If such a contract even existed, that is.

Remember, this is just a rumor.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

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