Revenge of the video store

Services like Netflix and Hulu are putting more of their resources into creating their own original programming, and movies may be available on only one service or only for limited times, says Aaron Hillis, a film journalist who bought Video Free Brooklyn in 2012. “Now you have to have a subscription for nine different services to catch up with what I have in one 375-square-foot shop.”

The Video Station in Boulder, Colo., with 42,000 titles, including a 19th-century work by Thomas Edison, saw an uptick in customers at the end of last year looking for “Star Wars” films in anticipation of the opening of the series’ most recent installment, “The Force Awakens.” Watching online cost around $20 per film—viewers could only buy the films, not rent. But a standard Video Station rental cost under $4. “We were the only game in town,” owner Bruce Shamma says.

Mr. Shamma and fellow video-store owners admit earning new business and maintaining the old is a constant struggle in light of online options and grocery store DVD kiosks like Redbox. Netflix also still runs a DVD rental service offering 93,000 titles, but film lovers must wait for delivery of the discs.