Sydney’s last DVD rental store disappears… Who knew we still had one?

Sydney’s reputed last DVD rental store is closing its doors, marking the end of an era.

Do you ever yearn for that blessed pre-Limeware, pre-Pirate Bay, pre-Netflix days, when mum or dad would take you by the hand and amble down to the local Video Ezy? It’s a Friday arvo in summer and the heat coats you in a warm blanket. Traffic lights droop lazily. You go to your favourite section in the store and pick out a title. You grab a packet of Smiths chips while you’re at it. Or maybe the attendant Chloe (you’re on a first-name basis) recommends something.

Well, that memory is about to become even more rose-tinted. Capitalism marches forever on.

Video Ezy
A Video Ezy in Hobart, Tasmania. Image courtesy: Wikipedia Commons.

Film Club in Darlinghurst, believed to be Sydney’s last DVD rental store, closed its doors on the weekend. There used to be an association that tracked all matters video store related – the Australian Video Rental Retailers Association – but it folded in 2016.

Film Club had tens of thousands of members on its book at the time of closing and a smaller dedicated base of regular customers.

The DVD rental industry has long neared extinction. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in the 1999-2000 financial year, there were 1166 individual video hire businesses operating in Australia and 1615 outlets in total. In 2013, a report from IBISWorld revealed there were just 255 DVD rental businesses still operating in Australia – a drop of nearly 80%!

Film Club was able to last so long in an era of Netflix because it offered a diverse range of niche films, many of which were not available on streaming platforms. These included: queer cinema, arthouse films, foreign language films and more.

Film Club Sydney, last dvd store
Credit: Film Club/Manon Keus

Clearly, some film connoisseurs never tire of putting a physical CD into a DVD player, just as many avid readers prefer physical copies of books, newspapers and magazines in this increasingly digital world of online media and Kindles.

As owner Ben Kenny told the Sydney Morning Herald, “it was all about the serendipity of discovery and finding something you didn’t know you were looking for.”

On Saturday, Kenny gave away most of his remaining stock free of charge. Some patrons gifted farewell donations.

“More than anything it just felt like the time was right,” Kenny says. “I never wanted the store to rely on empty nostalgia or people coming just out of obligation. I always wanted it to be a living, breathing, functioning business. I wanted to get out before it became a bit sad and desperate.”

Farwell, Film Club.