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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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A new ‘Star’ illuminates the video rental scene

Dan Urazandi stocks the shelves Thursday at Four Star Movies, in the back of Bizarro World at 223 E St. in downtown Davis. The video-rental business will have a "soft opening" beginning Saturday. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

By
March 24, 2011 |

In an old-style movie serial, this would be a dire episode: Davis’ increasingly woebegone protagonists, stranded in a desert wasteland bereft of entertainment options, have watched as all but a single small oasis of video rentals have turned to dust and blown away.

Happily, this old-style movie serial’s next chapter introduces both a new hero and renewed solace.

Dan Urazandi, owner/operator of downtown Davis’ popular comic, card and game emporium, Bizarro World, is riding to the rescue.

Urazandi has been keen, for a while now, to find a better way to optimize the back half of his 223 E St. location. (“Arcade machines aren’t as big as they were when I was a kid,” he acknowledged, with a sad smile.)

He initially flirted with the notion of adding a video rental annex after learning, earlier this year, that Anderson Plaza’s 49er Video would close at the end of this month. The timing didn’t seem QUITE right, though, so he let the matter drop.

He considered the situation much more aggressively a few weeks ago, after downtown Davis’ Blockbuster Video outlet, at 303 F St., posted massive “going out of business” banners. This would have left Westlake Plaza’s Stonegate Video as the city’s sole rental outlet, and that’s somewhat of a trip for many residents.

“That was just too serendipitous,” Urazandi said. “Plus, I have no doubt that some life is left in the market. The community still wants this service, which nobody is providing in the core area. So, I decided to jump on it.”

And “jump” is the operative word, because Urazandi perceived a sense of urgency.

“Nobody is renting out new movie releases at the moment, so I was afraid people would change their habits if I didn’t move quickly.”

All of which explains why Urazandi has researched, developed and opened a whole new business — Four Star Movies — in the span of just a few weeks. Those arcade machines vanished last weekend, replaced by shelves that will look familiar to 49er Video’s regular customers. Indeed, Urazandi is working closely with 49er owner John Merchant, to ensure that the latter’s loyal customers will be able to renew their rental accounts at Four Star Movies. Urazandi also has purchased some of 49er Video’s former titles, to help stock the shelves.

Urazandi hopes to have at least 2,000 titles when Four Star begins operation, and he wants to increase that to a projected total of 10,000. To that end, he’s requesting help from devoted local film buffs and his Bizarro World customers,  many of them movie fans themselves. Urazandi is buying and trading for DVDs and Blu-ray discs in all genres.

That variety is important, as well.

Although the dozens of recent big-budget Hollywood movies adapted from comic books and graphic novels have improved the mainstream public’s perception of this words-and-pictures medium, a sizeable percentage of folks probably still harbor a quiet suspicion — nurtured by pop-culture references such as the character of Comic Book Guy, in television’s “The Simpsons” — that those tending to inhabit such shops are, well, a bit strange. How, then, to persuade such doubters that it’s safe to cross the threshold?

“That’s a tough call,” Urazandi said, laughing. “I thought about that when it came time to decide on a name; should I have simply said that Bizarro World is now doing rentals? But no; Bizarro World already has its own identity. So I decided to go with an entirely different, straight-forward name — Four Star Movies — to clarify that these are two different things: that you can be into the one, without being into the other.”

Seasoned renters will find the check-out procedure familiar: Four Star’s shelves will be lined with colorful plastic DVD and Blu-ray clamshell cases, which patrons will be able to browse, while seeking the perfect title to watch on a given evening or weekend afternoon. Customers will bring their selection to the front counter, where it will be traded for the film disc. The transaction will be handled with a new computer check-out system that will be wholly dedicated to Four Star Movies.

Urazandi hopes to unveil Four Star Movies with a “soft opening” this week, and expects to rent titles as they hit the shelves. The new business’ grand opening will take place Friday, April 1. That’s VERY fast, but Urazandi remains unfazed. After all, he moved Bizarro World from its former G Street location in a single day … and was immediately open for business at the new spot.

Salvation, then, has arrived for film buffs who still enjoy the shelf-hunting thrill of an impulse decision to watch a movie … and want a much broader selection than can be found in any automated Redbox machine.

And Urazandi understands the need to cater to all tastes and genres.

“I watch everything from Kurosawa to John Waters,” he said. “I do not agree with the Academy that ‘How Green Was My Valley’ was the best picture of 1941, and I know that Han shot first.”

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