Netflix opens Columbia warehouse

Tuesday, September 11, 2007 | 8:26 p.m. CDT; updated 3:15 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

From an unmarked, tin-sided building on an unassuming industrial street, the world’s largest online movie retailer has quietly opened shop in north Columbia.

Netflix, a California-based company with 6.7 million subscribers, opened its third distribution center in Missouri on Aug. 1. The new location means mid-Missouri customers will get movies faster, Netflix spokesman Steve Swasey said. The Columbia center is located near Paris Road and Interstate 70.

Nearly 95 percent of Netflix’s subscribers live within a one-day delivery range of a Netflix facility, according to the company’s Web site. Missouri’s other delivery facilities are in Kansas City and St. Louis. Netflix’s newest facility puts Columbia and much of mid-Missouri within the one-day delivery range.

“Most” local deliveries “will come from Columbia,” Swasey said. “We want everyone to get the fastest delivery.”

However, Swasey said not all shipping hubs carry every title in the Netflix catalogue, meaning some movies might come from a center in another city or state.

Columbia’s movie rental market includes several national chains, but only one locally owned store: Ninth Street Video.

Reaction to the new Netflix center was mixed.

“It won’t affect me,” said Netflix customer Joanna Hearne, an assistant professor of film studies at MU. “I’m not going to watch the movies faster just because they’re here.”

Janet Marsh, co-owner of Ninth Street Video, 25 S. Ninth St., said she doesn’t expect any change in business.

Marsh said the downtown video store won’t be affected “because of our service aspect and our personal touch, and there’s a strong contingent of people in Columbia who prefer local business.”

Columbia Netflix subscriber Tom Parsons hasn’t noticed any change in his delivery times. Still, he’s pleased with the service.

“They’re good at what they do,” he said. “They deliver.”

Parsons, though, hasn’t given up on the traditional bricks-and-mortar video rental store.

“I still like going to the video store,” Parsons said. “There’s just something about walking and looking at movies rather than looking at them on the computer.”

Hearne also isn’t going online-only because she still has a need for the local video store.

“I’ll continue to patronize Ninth Street Video because they’re local, and they have titles Netflix doesn’t,” she said. Ninth Street Video has “silent, foreign and less common documentaries” on VHS that Netflix, a DVD-exclusive provider, does not carry, Hearne said.

Managers at Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery and Blockbuster Video declined to commment.

Netflix began operations in 1999 and is based in Los Gatos, Calif. Swasey said the Columbia shipping center is the company’s 46th such facility.

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