The following letter represents the author’s personal views and not necessarily those of anyone else associated with HKFlix or this website.
Dear HKFlix Customers:
In the wake of HKFlix.com being shut down last week, and in light of some of the feedback I have heard from customers in recent months, I am writing this letter in the hopes of explaining some of what happened to HKFlix and offering you the apology that I feel you deserve.
I was one of the original founders of HKFlix, and an owner until October, 2009, when we sold the business after ten memorable years of operation. HKFlix began (as HKFlicks) in an apartment in Honolulu, HI. It eventually grew to an apartment in Berkeley, CA; a garage in Berkeley, CA; a funky little converted storefront in Oakland, CA; and finally a proper warehouse in San Leandro, CA. We began the business when we were in our early 20’s and learned as we went—often the hard way.
I know HKFlix has always had its critics, but please believe me when I say that it was always run by a very small group of people who sincerely cared about the films we sold, the customers we serviced, and the way we did business. Our goal was to offer collectors the best possible selection, pricing, and shopping experience, while also providing an exceptional work environment and a living wage to our employees.
We took great pride in our network of affiliates—independent, film-related web sites that collected a generous commission for sending more customers our way. We were always eager to help them succeed, above and beyond simply promoting HKFlix—whether that meant offering programming help and advice, free review copies of DVDs, plugging them in our newsletters, or just someone to chat with.
Beyond that, we always invested as much money as possible back into the company to continue to expand our catalog and our quality of service.
No one got rich working at HKFlix—believe me, when you’re working up to 90 hours a week, you’re well beyond the realm of monetary compensation!—but we all took pride in our work, looked out for each other, and took great delight in the positive feedback we regularly received from our customers—who were, by and large, the most loyal any business could ever hope for.
There is a very vocal segment that loves to talk about “bootlegs”, and as that is a conversation that could go on forever, I’ll just address the issue as briefly as possible. The fact of the matter is that HKFlix was always between a rock and a hard place there. What people need to understand is that questions of copyrights on many of these obscure films are often 1) in dispute, or cloudy at best, 2) beyond the means or purview of a small retailer to disentangle, and 3) dictated by what the rest of the industry is doing. Which is to say that if four different companies are claiming a copyright on the same film (or claiming there is none), if the film in question itself contains copyright-infringed material, if other major retailers and distributors are selling a product and our customers demand it, if our distributor claims they have a right to sell the film to us, and if the (alleged) copyright holders are unable/unwilling to enforce their copyrights through proper legal channels (or even reply to our proactive inquiries); then we’re really at the mercy of circumstance to navigate the proper course. None of us at HKFlix liked inferior products from ANY supplier (PanMedia products were often referred to as PanShittia in our warehouse), and we always strove to identify and publicly denounce inferior products on our web site, calling attention to any and all flaws we knew about. Furthermore, we all didn’t agree on this subject. We had plenty of internal disputes about these products. Sure, we made some mistakes along the way, but it does seem HKFlix was held to a higher standard than any of our competitors, which I suppose is both flattering and frustrating.
All of this brings us to October, 2009, when we sold HKFlix. We did our best to find a buyer whom we hoped and expected would honor the traditions of HKFlix and grow the company. I stayed on for some time to aid in the transition, but eventually left the business for the new owner to run. I cannot speak to how the business operated after that, but I was saddened to see that HKFlix.com was shut down last week.
It was very painful to watch the company we had built disappear, to read accounts online of HKFlix customers who had abandoned the site and said their emails and calls were not being answered. I know it might not mean much at this late date, coming from someone whose involvement in the site ended long ago, but please allow me to say this: I AM SO SORRY. I’m sorry if your emails went unanswered. And I’m sorry that one of your favorite film resources has disappeared. Lastly, I’m sorry that I am not in a position to change it. All of you who used HKFlix as a resource over the years during which I operated the business were, and continue to be, important and valued members of a wonderful community.
When HKFlix.com disappeared, a wealth of valuable content went with it. In addition to thousands of customer and professional reviews, there was ten years’ worth of my own personal effort building the world’s largest database of martial arts films, complete with manually-verified technical details the likes of which have never been collected elsewhere. I’ve seen a few scattered comments here and there from people who would like to see that content resurrected in some kind of non-commercial/informational context. I have backups of all the data up to the sale of the business, and rights to it, and would welcome any ideas anyone has about how best to accomplish this (see contact link below). I built the HKFlix web site from the ground up (using nothing but Notepad!) and would be more than willing to do a good deal of technical legwork. But the biggest issue is the hosting costs. HKFlix was a fairly complex site running on Microsoft SQL Server (dedicated) and IIS, which unfortunately makes it very expensive to host. I’m open to hearing your ideas. But please do include some viable means of covering those costs.
In closing, thank you once again for ten years of supporting HKFlix. By doing so you gave good jobs to good people, supported independent films and local businesses, and hopefully got yourself some
fantastic films in the process. All of us from the original HKFlix are deeply indebted to you and hope you will continue to search for deserving, independent businesses (and films!) to support in the future. The Amazons, Netflixes, and multiplexes all have their place, but please don’t let them bulldoze over the entire market, at least not without a fight.
You can reach me using the following web form: