With more than 40,000 DVD kiosks sprinkled among nearly 34,000 retail locations, Redbox remains the uncontested king of the DVD rental business.
But while Redbox has made efforts to beef up its library of popular blockbuster films, its ascension to the top of the DVD game left one entertainment segment thrown to the wayside — international foreign language films.
Enter Arlington, Va.-based Globox Rentals. Formed by George Mason University alumni Sammy Kassim and Asad Ali, the kiosk-based DVD rental business was recently described as the "Redbox for foreign film" in an article in the Washington Business Journal.
Ali and Kassim conceptualized the idea in November 2012 and managed to bring the kiosk to market this past summer. The company now has 10 kiosks deployed in the Northern Virginia region, each holding about 200 Indian, East Asian, Hispanic, European and independent film titles.
A majority of the kiosks are located at large international grocery stores in the region (along with an installation, pictured below, at George Mason University) and target a very specific niche audience, one that represents the core component to Globex's business — a highly ethnic base of consumers that have difficulty accessing foreign films and who are unlikely to (or unable to) convert to streaming media.
According to Kassim, Globox's current president and COO, the foreign titles offered by Globox were largely passed over by Redbox.
"The films we are getting, it's stuff Redbox has seen and passed up on," he said. "Having talked to various film distributors, they said Redbox would only cherry-pick a few of the top titles."
Aside from the differences in content and target user demographics, the rest of the business model is reflective of Redbox, with similar vending procedures, price points and return policies.
"The only difference is that we cater the content to the communities and offer films that are harder to get," Kassim said.
And while Redbox has had some high-profile struggles with securing its content distribution licenses, the Globox team found that foreign film distributors were rather amenable to their plan.
"We literally went and drove to studios in New York, New Jersey, Miami and Texas, and we built good relationships once we told them what we wanted to do," Kassim said. "They were very receptive to it. They wanted to get the content out, and now we are the medium."
The international grocery stores didn't take much persuasion, either. Kassim said that many of the supermarkets now housing the kiosks had previously applied for a Redbox installation but they were never put in.
Globox hopes to expand its kiosk footprint nationally, with a goal of deploying more than 100 machines within the next 18 months. Considering that the immigrant population in the U.S. is on a steady upward trajectory, with diverse ethnic pockets still growing in major cities, it's likely the team will find plenty of locations that can sustain a Globox kiosk.
But the company isn't betting its future solely on discs — it also hopes at some point to reach the digital realm as a provider of international cinema through streaming.
"Right now we are in line with our target demographic," Kassim said. "They aren't as high tech and they don't have broadband access in some of these neighborhoods. But that's something that we are looking forward to facing. We have the ability to get our content in a streaming fashion. As the customer and demand shifts, we want to combine those services."
Click here to see more photos of the Globox kiosk.
Read more about DVD kiosks.