Enrique Asunción (left) and Jorge Sosa at their ‘Back to the Past’ store, in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
“I have platforms for my children, but I don’t see it because they only give garbage and I don’t want them to know what my tastes are.” Julian (not his real name) is gossiping in the classic film section of Back to the past, a shop for buying and selling DVDs, Blue Rays, vinyls and collectibles in the center of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. “Many times I see that the family is watching something disgusting and I turn around, grab the computer and go to see a Cary Grant movie.”
This establishment, unique in the capital, is run by Enrique Asunción, Víctor Muñiz and Jorge Sosa. All three have experience in the film and music industry, and one day they decided that the boom of digital platforms endangered the physical format, essential for collecting, and that it left out a lot of cinema that had no place because it was not. commercial enough and because they don’t cater to collectors. It is one of the approximately three hundred video stores that are still active in Spain, according to data from the sector, which operate outside the iron fist of digital platforms, which, contrary to what has happened with these traditional businesses, have not done but grow during the pandemic.
They are part of a very weakened but global resistance. Recently, the daily Wall street journal uncovered the initiative Free Blockbuster, a movement that began in 2019 and that allows the citizens of Los Angeles to borrow VHS movies for free using the old boxes on the streets that were used to sell newspapers. An attachment to the physical format and a distrust of the algorithm that also occurs in Spain.
“We want our children to continue with our cinephile tendencies,” explains Asunción (48 years old). “Many people come here not only to buy, but also to talk about cinema, to buy hand-held programs, to buy posters. And a lot of young people come asking for classics or out-of-print movies, or asking for Pink Floyd or ELO vinyl because their parents have taught them. That gives me hope and satisfaction ”. Back to the past is an exception. “Business is going very well, really.”
Aurora Depares, owner of the Video Instan video store in BarcelonaAlbert Garcia / THE COUNTRY
“I can’t imagine myself working on anything else,” says Aurora Depares (45 years old), the owner of Video Instan in Barcelona, which happens to be the oldest branch store in Spain after having been active since 1977. Depares does not have a contracted platform at home. But he is not belligerent against them. “I have nothing against it,” he explains in a telephone conversation, “the more culture gets the better, of course. The only thing is that there is nothing that I need to see because it is going to contribute something to me, or because I need to see it and that it was not released on DVD or Blue Ray ”.
You run your business for more than just the excitement of continuing the family business. “I offer 46,000 movies, and many of them are not on platforms. I think I do a job of safeguarding these movies and recommending them. People show me every day ”.
What do you think of the anti algorithm? “We operate with a flat rate that for 8.95 euros they can rent whatever they want. We are cheaper than anyone, and we recommend knowingly. ” The businesswoman expanded the business in 2008 in an attempt to make it viable with a coffee shop, a video store and a mini cinema, where they planned to schedule a daily movie. At least before the pandemic. Everything has gone to hell ”, he exclaims. “I hope that now that we are vaccinated and that there is more control, my business and that of the neighborhoods, of all kinds, will be reactivated. It is costing us ”.
Julián Bárcena, at his premises in Cantabria
The neighborhood business is also a concern for Julián Bárcena (37 years old), owner of Videoclub Puente, in Reocín (8,400 inhabitants, Cantabria). “Do not forget the stores of a lifetime, we are the ones who pay taxes,” he says by phone. “Every day we are more lazy and lazy, and we limit ourselves to seeing what the big companies impose on us, and in the end we will all end up like the characters in the film Wall-E”, He maintains. In this Pixar movie (2008), the earthlings have left the planet aboard a ship called Axiom Due to pollution, and its passengers do not get up from their beds, they suffer extreme obesity, their legs do not work and they are hooked to a screen that attends to all their needs. Bárcena, by the way, only has Movistar + contracted. “But the basics: no cinema option, no series or anything.”
The word algorithm comes up in every conversation with the owners of video stores or movie stores. For this, Lorena Jaume-Palasi, executive director of AlgorithmWatch and member of the Group of Wise Men on Artificial Intelligence and Big Data of the Spanish Government, explains in a telephone conversation from Germany, “programming techniques are used based on the homophilia: it is assumed that people with similar tastes want the same ”. This theory has its roots in the 1950s and was developed to study the integration of cultures in the US “These simplistic and reductionist sociological theories were co-opted by engineers to apply them, because they are easy to program,” he says. “It is something much more complex than simply the recommendations that are being made.” The result, a bilinguality imposed and a certain uniformity in the tastes that are permeating. “There is an extremely Anglo-Saxon point and colonialist”, Sentence.
Marcia Seburo poses inside her DVD and Blue Ray rental and sale shop ‘Ficciones’ in Madrid. Andrea Comas
The precarious situation of many of these stores is not solely due to the algorithm. “The pandemic has done more damage, even than piracy,” says Bolivian Marcia Seburo, owner of Fictions, in Madrid. “It has been very harmful, not only because of the confinement itself, but also because of the fact that those who did not have or wanted to have a platform have pushed us to subscribe to one. And we have noticed that a lot ”. Seburo herself is one of those people, who has gone from having none to being forced to pay a monthly fee to be able to see something. “The main reason for not wanting platforms is that you are obliged to see what the company wants you to see, you have no autonomy: they are bordering you, your likes are closing. I have 50,000 titles here, neither Netflix or HBO together make it to my catalog ”. At first, the businesswoman only offered auteur cinema. “But I had to open my hand to survive.”
Ramón Pagán, owner of the R. Pagán video store in La Unión (20,500 inhabitants, Murcia), is another of those who rejects the platforms. “I have noticed the effect of the algorithm and Netflix since the pandemic,” he explains. “The algorithm is a robot interested in favoring the platform, it will recommend good and bad horror movies to you simply because you like horror. I can’t do that, because if I give you one movie bad I lose credibility, and my business is based on the trust they have in me ”.
María Victoria is 35 years old. He has just entered the local Back to the past and scans a shelf of novelties. “To watch movies I prefer the cinema experience,” he explains. “And if not, then I come here because there is more offer and, in addition, I see people and I can buy things. Last week I took a poster of A clockwork orange”. And he ends: “I go through platforms. Especially because it is very expensive if you want to have a wide and good offer ”.
Filmin, a case apart
“Within the platforms it is the one that has the highest quality content, for the moment, although since they do not produce, they have things that already exist,” explains Aurora Depares.
Filmin is a Spanish company founded in 2007 that offers auteur, independent, commercial cinema in the form of streaming video on demand and legally under subscription. In 2020 the investment funds Nazca and Seaya Ventures, shareholders of Cabify and Glovo, acquired 51% of the platform.
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