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Renting a movie? Withdraw one from the Moviebank

If it takes only two hours to watch a movie, why bother renting it for a week?

That's one of the questions that prompted the creation of Moviebank, a video rental retailer that offers the newest releases for as little as 99 cents for a six-hour rental.

"Our target market is the person that is spur of the moment, that decides, 'I want to watch this movie tonight,' " said Joel Schoubert, owner of the store that opened almost a year ago in Gunn Highway's Plantation Plaza.

By renting out the movie for only six hours, Moviebank ensures a quick turnover of titles. This benefits the renter (who rarely comes in to find all the copies of one film gone) and the store (because more rentals go out in fewer days). "It's a win-win situation," Schoubert said.

And there's one other little twist. Moviebank is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because the entire business is driven by an automated DVD vending machine.

The store is essentially a lobby with several ATM-style kiosks that operate in English and Spanish. Renters scroll through inventory, view trailers and select their choices, which are then delivered by the vending machine.

The machine, originally developed by Video Systems Italia for the European market, is about 3 feet by 8 feet. The automated dispenser in Plantation Plaza holds about 2,000 DVDs, but could add to its capacity later.

Moviebank corporate founders started the company in Manhattan two years ago, and recruited Schoubert as technical services manager. The company flourished, and in two years it opened locations in 11 states.

Eventually Schoubert tired of the commute between Tampa and New York and decided to open the local store. All locations operate under license agreement, but there is talk of franchising in the future.

Schoubert said the concept offers many benefits. The store requires little space, which means low overhead and equally low rental fees. With a fairly constant inventory supply, renters walk away happy.

"I can rent a movie for 99 cents instead of what the others are charging," said customer Fernando Rivas.

"And I can pick it up and return it whenever I like, not just when the store is opened."

For customers who crave human interaction, employees are on hand from 6 to 9 p.m. every evening except Thursday and Sunday. The machines, meanwhile, never call in sick "and we don't really have to worry about disgruntled employees," Schoubert said.

New releases account for most of the movies, leaving customers with limited choices if they have more esoteric tastes.

Membership is free. Members use their bank credit cards to put money into their Moviebank accounts.

If members return a movie after six hours, the rental becomes a 12-hour rental and they'll be charged $1.99.

If members return the movie after 12 hours, the rental becomes a 24-hour rental and they'll be charged $2.49. Each additional day costs $1.49.

A 24-hour rental for a nonmember costs $3.99, and every day after that also costs a nonmember $1.49.

Schoubert thinks the Moviebank concept is so hot, other retail businesses will soon follow suit.

"We're going to see automated convenience stores," he said.

FAST FACTS

Moviebank

The store is at 4351 Gunn Highway, in Plantation Plaza. For more information, call the store at 961-5700, or visit moviebankusa.com.

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