SHOPTALK : Scouting Out the Best Deals at Video Stores : While selection may vary among outlets, rental prices are surprisingly competitive.


You haven't seen "Forrest Gump" or "Pulp Fiction." You have absolutely no clue what a "Shawshank" is. And "The Lion King" is a cartoon, so you didn't even bother with it.

But the Academy Awards are fast approaching and, oddly enough, you're yearning to see some flicks.

Unfortunately, it's hard for you to block out a good four hours to drive to and from a movie theater. So that leaves the VCR--that dusty thing under the television that you spent more time connecting than you have using.

Have you found it? Good. Now it's time to find the videos.

You may very well have your favorite video store--there's certainly enough of them out there, from the small mom-and-pops to the big chains. But maybe you don't have a favorite, or maybe you're looking for a change. Here, then, are some tips.

There are several factors to consider when looking for a video rental store. There's selection, of course, with the major chains typically out-stocking the smaller independent stores; rental fee; membership fee, if any; special promotions and discounts; and other services, such as VCR rental and/or repair, or a well-stocked candy counter. The store's proximity to your home is certainly a major consideration as well.

Last week, we wandered far from home to check out five Ventura County video stores of various sizes and to compare their rental fees.

In Santa Paula, Plaza Video rents new movies for $2.75 a day and older movies for just 70 cents a day. There is no membership fee.

In contrast, just down the street from Plaza Video, you'll find one of the big guys, Blockbuster Video. Blockbuster has a much larger selection, but the rental rates aren't dramatically different. New releases and some older films are $3 for two days, other films are $2 and $1.50 for three days. Membership is free with a credit card, a $5 processing fee without.

At Ventura's Salzer's Video, one of the largest stores in the county, the membership fee is $14.95. Some new releases can be rented for $3.75 a day, others for $2.99 a day. Older films can be had for $2.50 for seven days.

At the much smaller, yet nicely stocked Video Adventures in Oak View, it costs a minimum of $8.04 (or three rentals) to become a member. The regular rental rate, for members, is $2.50 for new releases, $2 for older films (that's for two days when rented on Saturday, one day the rest of the week). Add $1 to the fee for non-members. Members can rent movies for $1.50 on most Wednesdays and after 8 p.m. Sunday to Thursday.

And at Video 4 You in Thousand Oaks, the one-day rental rate is $2.97 for newest releases, $2.50 for most others. But if you purchase a $25 annual membership, you get 12 free rentals, $1.98 rentals Tuesday through Thursday, and four rentals for the price of three on Fridays and Saturdays. Got that?


In keeping with the Oscar theme of the day, we should note that "The Lion King," nominated for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, was released on video last week.

In case you didn't notice, it was being sold just about everywhere. And doing nicely. Disney reported the sale of 20 million copies in North America during the first week of release. Locally, at least two Kay-Bee toy stores in Oxnard and one in Ventura had sold out within two days.

At Salzer's and Blockbuster, the new release was going for $18.99. But don't necessarily expect to find the best video buys at video stores.

"The Lion King" was priced at $17.88 at the Wherehouse in Ventura, $16.99 at Toys R Us at the Janss Mall in Thousand Oaks, $16.98 at Montgomery Ward in Ventura, $16.88 at the Wal-Mart in Oxnard and at the K mart in Moorpark, and $16.47 at Target in Simi Valley.

Now don't you wish you had seen it at the theater?

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