March 13, 2005 by

George Atkinson


Categories: Business

George William Atkinson, a businessman who opened the first video rental store, died on March 3 from complications of emphysema. He was 69.
Born in Shanghai to an English father and a Russian mother, Atkinson immigrated to America when he was 14 years old. During World War II, his family was forced to endure more than two years in a Japanese internment camp. Atkinson graduated with a degree in English literature from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1958, served two years in the U.S. Army, accepted bit parts in a couple of TV shows in the late-1960s then ran a small company renting Super 8 movies and projectors.
Convinced consumers would pay to rent tapes of feature films as well, Atkinson opened Video Station in 1977. At the time, VCRs cost $1,000. Yet after advertising his video rental concept in The Los Angeles Times, hundreds of people agreed to rent the videos he kept in stock.
That first storefront on Wilshire Boulevard in West Los Angeles offered an inventory of 50 movie titles in both Betamax and VHS versions. Atkinson charged $50 for an annual rental membership and $100 for a lifetime membership. Individual rentals cost $10 a day. Over the next two decades, more than 550 Video Station franchises opened in the United States and Canada.
Corporate scandal erupted in 1982 when Video Station Inc.’s board of directors issued a news release admitting the company had overstated profits by $1 million. Atkinson resigned the following year and pleaded guilty to filing false financial reports. He was sentenced to three months in a community treatment center, five years of probation and 2,000 hours of community service. His brother, Edward, who was also an executive with the company, was convicted of perjury and securities fraud and sentenced to five years in prison.
In 1991, Atkinson was inducted into the Video Hall of Fame.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR

4 Responses to George Atkinson

  1. ashleigh atkinson

    his was a great father and will always be remebered in my heart. i know he’s not suffering anymore and i’m thankful he has no moe pain to experience. you taught me alot and i hope you are having a grand ole time wherever you may be now. i love you eternally

  2. Bennet Lientz

    I worked for his wife, Sandra, when I was a teenager in Santa Monica at Videotique between 1985-1987. George was a very nice man and deserves the best in his next life.

  3. Sandra Shepherd

    I will always have George in my heart. We were married nearly 15 years, and my lovely daughter Ashleigh came from this. George was one of the greatest men to have lived, but I was to young and to stupid to recognize it until it was to late. I love you George!

  4. Frances

    I would like to express my condolences to the family of George Atkinson.
    I worked for Sandra and George at their home in Santa Monica when Ashleigh was first born, I can still remember sewing the pearls on her baptism dress.
    I remember George for his great generosity, kindness, fairness and deep love for all of his family.I would mostly like to thank him for giving me the courage to leave his employment, which was a milestone in my life.

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