I’ve been popping in and out of West L.A.’s Laser Blazer since the early ’90s, first to buy laser discs and then DVDs and Blurays. And these days the store (located at 10587 West Pico Blvd, two blocks east of Overland) is a remnant of what it once was. Business is down, the mood is down, excess inventory is being sent back to distributors and the air conditioning is on the fritz, and in fact hasn’t been repaired for several weeks. And it’s hot outside.
I’m sorry to see an old friend wither and die. I wish I could do something to help, but what could that be exactly? Video retail revenue is dropping all over. Other L.A. video stores like Vidiots, Cinefile and Amoeba are hanging on (or so it seems), but it seems as if Laser Blazer is hurting a bit more than most, obviously due to Netflix-by-mail and streaming downloads but also the location, which has little pedestrian traffic. (Parking has never been a problem.)
I like to roam around a video store and shoot the shit with the counter guys about this or that film, but I guess that kind of behavior or social appetite is dying also.
Last January owner Ron Dassa, looking to save money, partitioned the original store space into a much smaller space in order to rent out two other partitioned areas. One is being used by an aerobics business; the other is unoccupied. Laser Blazer’s store space feels cramped, bunker-like. The last time I was there it felt like a closet without the a.c. (The staffers had the front door open, at least.)
I dropped by a week or so ago to by a DVD of The Best Years of Our Lives. Ivan Infante, a screenwriter and filmmaker who’s been the store’s buyer for I-forget-how-many-years, said they’re out of it, and that it’s not re-orderable. This would have been an unheard-of scenario two or three years ago. Today I asked if they had the Twilight Zone Bluray boxes, and the guy said only Season #4. So the hell with it. What’s the point any more? No air-conditioning and a diminishing inventory. I’ll just go order online or go to Ameoba or Best Buy. Or buy Hulu or Netflix or Amazon downloads, although I really hate the quality of the online streaming I’ve seen so far.
I’m sorry it’s come to this, but a place I used to think of as a kind of home is giving up the ghost, and there doesn’t seem to be anything to do or say except…you tell me. If I could clap my hands three times and convert Laser Blazer into the place it was three or four years ago, I would.