Couch Critics rolling with changing times

Kelsey Shelton
James Cannon, who has owned and operated Couch Critics in Mount Shasta for 14 years, is working to keep his business afloat by adapting to the technological times.

Couch Critics Movies and Games has been a haven of cinephiles and pop culture lovers in Mount Shasta for quite some time: 14 years to be exact. James Cannon, the store’s owner, couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“Out of all the jobs I’ve had, it’s the one I like the most,” he said. “I get to see my buds every day.”

As most video stores have closed their doors in the wake of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, Cannon’s Couch Critics is continuing to stand as a pillar of entertainment and community.

Although faced with a changing industry and the recent loss of a longtime employee due to the high cost of doing business in a small town in California, Couch Critics is evolving to become a one stop shop of sorts, now offering movies, games, collectibles, comics and books.

“Amazing, fantastic and any other positive adjective you can use to describe it ... for a small business owner to have this quality and variety of media is unusual, wonderful and genre-spanning. And there is always a positive attitude,” said one customer browsing the many titles lining the walls.

With the recent loss of his long time employee, Elijah Sullivan, Cannon is hoping for a change.

“Elijah was really the heart behind what has been chosen in the store, and he is very much responsible for the movies on hand,” said Cannon. “For the 14 years we have been in business, he has been ordering and doing inventory. He is awesome and has been so loyal. I am so sad to not be able to have him working with me anymore.”

Cannon said Sullivan helped build the store from the ground up.

“The climate for small business is not really encouraging for employers, it tends to be too expensive to staff ... hopefully the government will become more lenient towards small businesses in the future,” said Cannon.

This issue has impacted many businesses in Siskiyou County, and with unemployment rates hovering around 10 percent, people have either had to downsize businesses or close altogether.

“I am hoping to get my own kids in the store this summer. I have been trying to teach them about film and appreciation all their lives,” said Cannon.

As online streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon continue to grow in content and subscribers, Cannon has his own plans for adapting and staying current.

“Netflix releases can sometimes take longer to be accessible on DVD,” which can make it difficult to stay current, he said. “With viewer-based algorithms, you miss a lot of stuff when streaming.”

Cannon counteracts this by offering a wide variety of new releases, as well as classic cinema and cult films not generally available through streaming. And he is constantly working to provide services that a streaming platform cannot.

“I want people to be able to walk around and have a tactile sense of things when they’re in the shop,” as well as “face to face interaction,” he said. “Appreciation for the social aspect of things, and watching people come together through film or television is what leads to a deeper discussion of film.”

With this mentality, Cannon has established a presence when it comes to community involvement.

“I do my best to donate items and gift certificates for local fundraising efforts, as well as helping schools, the Avalanche Center, the Mount Shasta Education Foundation and libraries.” He even offers extra rental days for teachers who want to show his films in their classrooms.

Cannon is always looking for more public opinion about what to do with his store.

“Things are changing. I’d like to know what to offer up,” Cannon said, to keep in step with modern, main stream viewers, and those who appreciate the classic cinema.

“I get concerned that people will stop seeing the classics, and won’t have access,” he said.

Because of this concern, the store runs regular specials to encourage people to check out films off the beaten path. Specials include a free older title with the rental of a new/recent title, as well as genre-specific specials.

“I get so excited when someone sees one of my favorite films for the first time,” Cannon said.

With the recent changes to store hours and employee downsizing, Cannon appreciates all those who continue to support the store and its growing archives.

“We’ve been doing this for so long ... and I’ve been thankful for the relationships built. I don’t really call anyone a customer, I prefer ‘patron,’ because these are people who make the choice to come support the archive and small businesses,” Cannon said. “I appreciate all who come in. Everyone has become a buddy to some degree.”