Q&A: David Greenstreet of ClassicFlix.com


Every since I first started renting from ClassicFlix about a year ago, I’ve been curious to learn more about the service and the people behind it. Recently, I finally decided to contact the company directly and get some answers to my burning questions.

For those of you who haven’t heard of ClassicFlix, it is a DVD mail rental service in the United States that focuses only on classic movies and television (essentially pre-1970). While I do find it easier to browse a specialized selection, the thing that I love most about this company is the huge number of Manufacture on Demand (MOD) discs they offer exclusively for rental. I’m not a huge DVD collector (gasp—I know), but there are so many MOD titles that I really want to see. It has been fantastic to be able to rent all these movies that have been otherwise inaccessible to me over the years.

I was hesitant to feature these answers on the blog, because I am aware that it seems like a big old ad. Full disclosure: it isn’t. I also can’t be held responsible for your own experience with ClassicFlix, though I have been very happy myself. I’m just a fan of this growing company. I like that it was a venture started with the same love of the classics that a lot of us share.

So here they are, the answers to the questions I asked co-founder and owner of ClassicFlix, David Greenstreet:

What inspired you to start ClassicFlix?

After awakening to the joys of classic film in the 90’s (I’m 42), I found and watched every classic I could find at local video stores. When Netflix came along, I thought it was a great idea because selection was broader and searching for titles, actors, etc. became easier. However, I soon ran through most of what I wanted to watch at Netflix and knew there was so much more out there to be seen that they didn’t offer. Additionally, navigation of their site made it difficult to find what I was looking for as it displayed many “classics” from the 70’s upward that I just didn’t care to view. So my wife and I started ClassicFlix as a specifically tailored website for classic film fans.

How many titles do you currently offer?

Over 8,000

How has the rise of MOD titles changed your business? Which studios’ MOD discs do you currently offer?

We currently carry close to 1,000 MOD titles from all lines (Warner Archive, TCM Vault, Sony Screen Classics, Universal Vault and MGM MODs) and it has changed our business dramatically. MODs now make up the vast majority of classic films releases. While it has attracted more members for us, it has also increased acquisition cost dramatically as over 70% of our acquisitions are for MOD titles. The rise of the Blu-Ray format has also not mitigated our acquisition per DVD cost. However, we wouldn’t have it any other way as we couldn’t claim the mantle of THE Classic Movie Rental Site if we didn’t.

I’ve always been curious, how many discs do you lose a year due to breakage? Those mailing envelopes seem so vulnerable.

If I told you our breakage percentage, you probably wouldn’t believe it. It is very high when compared to the kid-glove treatment that Netflix gets. However, the breakage percentage, along with the high acquisition costs is built in to the cost of membership. It makes it no more joyful to see one broken disc, but it’s just a part of doing business.

What is your most popular rental disc of all time?

The recently released Night Flight is our most popular of all time. Other titles that have been locked up in the vault are popular too like Stranger on the Third Floor and While the City Sleeps.

What are your future plans for ClassicFlix?

A complete re-design is coming and should be completed in the fall. It will allow for more interactivity, have reviews, articles and have some great new features. Streaming is coming down the road too. Although we don’t have a firm timetable.

What are your favorite movies?

Too many to count. But if I had to name one, it would be Casablanca. It may be cliché, but it holds special place in my heart as it triggered my awakening when I went to a 50th anniversary screening at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto. It opened my eyes to a world wonderful films that I didn’t know existed.

In no particular order, other favorites come to mind: Arsenic and Old Lace, To Be or Not to Be, It’s Love I’m After, Hobson’s Choice, Brute Force, Shadow of a Doubt, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mr. Skeffington, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ace in the Hole and many, many more.

6 comments:

Laura said...

Thanks for this interesting interview, KC! I enjoyed learning more about the company.

Best wishes,
Laura

Cliff Aliperti said...

Wow KC, nice get!

Hmm, streaming on ClassicFlix, um that very well would make me a customer if the selection goes beyond public domain.

I'd be curious if they've seen a noticeable spike in business since the great Netflix fiasco.

KC said...

Laura--Thanks! I was glad to learn the answers to these questions myself.

Cliff--I know, streaming would be great. I'm sure it would take a lot of effort to get going, but I can wait! I'm sure they did see a spike from people who figured they might as well go with ClassicFlix if that and Instant play would be the same cost as the disc/streaming plans on Netflix.

teadoust said...

does he have an email address that you know of? i have some complaints about the service and i'd like to address them to someone other than "customer service".

KC said...

As I recall, I used the customer service email to contact David for the interview and we used that for our communications. I imagine you could still reach him directly via that address if you make it to his attention.

teadoust said...

I closed my CF account this morning. I got the sense that they were going out of their way NOT to send me things. There was a rental period where I managed to get a whopping TWO dvd's for the entire month (I had a $17.99 two-at-a-time/unlimited account then) and they were really nasty about not refunding any of my money for that month. It's a great idea for a service, I honestly think that for any customers outside of California, they should charge for each dvd they ship you instead of trying to have plans like NetFlix. It simply doesn't work.

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