Final Credits As One Of Australia's Last Video Stores Closes Down
After 37 years in the video business and outliving franchise rivals Blockbuster and VideoEzy, John and Marion Wallace are shutting down their video store in the NSW seaside town Thirroul.
Marion said she felt "really very sad" when the closing down sale sign went up on the front window on Monday.
"Straight away people came in to tell us how absolutely devastated they are that we are closing and asking if there is any way we can stay open," Marion told 10 daily.
In 1982, John and Marion opened their first video store, and fast forward to 2020, it still exists -- largely unchanged -- stocking VHS, DVD and BluRay titles.
However, they will stop trading in April, due to $400 a week rent increase and because the couple are now in their late 70s.
"We had to be realistic, we can't sign a five year lease, we may not be here in five years," Marion said.
Leading Edge Video Thirroul is jam-packed with hard copy films and for years people from all over flock to it, especially for 'Marion's Picks' -- a regularly updated list of what she's been watching and wants to share with movie lovers.
"That's why we developed my wife's shelf 'Marion's picks' because she does put quality movies on there," John Wallace told 10 daily.
"It's the excitement of new films coming out every month. My wife is a very good film addict, she's very good at watching and commenting on them."
They've amassed almost 30 000 DVD's and VHS's and now they are up for sale.
"The last three days have been amazing. We have sold thousands of DVDs, a lot of VHS too. People are calling from Sydney and calling from Queensland too, they want to buy," Marion said.
While John is well aware the 'heydays' are far behind them, he said that customers had actually slowly started coming back to video stores.
"Netflix really took a toll on us but we are finding that people are starting to come back to us. They are sick of streaming platforms and they aren't getting what they want," he claimed.
He said box-set DVDs and foreign films were their most popular rentals.
Marion says if there wasn't an imminent rent increase, they could probably stick around for longer, even reducing trading hours "from just lunchtime to around 7pm."
Almost 20 years ago the Australian Video Rental Retailers Association (AVRRA) declared there were 2600 video stores across the country.
Now the AVRRA no longer exists, it shut down in 2016 after losing the war to the internet, and it's hard to find a store in most towns.
Once a household name 'Video Ezy' has closed all of its stores and replaced some with vending machine-style kiosks in shopping centres.
In early 2019, the second last Leading Edge, in Dapto NSW, notified customers on Facebook that it was closing down after 36 years.
In March 2019, the last blockbuster in Australia and the 'second last on Earth' rolled the credits in Morley, WA.
The Wallace's store is one of a handful of independent video stores still operating in Australia.
"I know I am the only video store between here and the Victorian border ... there are a few outback where the NBN hasn't reached, but generally, they are combined with other stores."
The Thirroul store has become something of a museum, with families from Sydney and as far as Victoria travelling to the store "to show their kids what institutions these places were".
But nostalgia doesn't always translate to sales, and for the Wallace family, it means hitting stop in April this year.
Fortunately, it has for the world's last Blockbuster, located in Oregon in the U.S.
That family-run store sells 'Last Blockbuster' merchandise, including bumper stickers and baby onesies, and it ships worldwide.
It partially has social media to thank for the success, with travellers keen to take a photo to share online at the relic of the past.
Funnily enough, there is a feature film underway on the lone yellow and blue rental store.
Contact the author email@example.com