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The Couple Rewinding Time At One Of Australia's Last Video Stores

The heydays might be behind them but the Wallace family have managed to stay in business despite video stores nearing extinction. Here’s how they’ve kept their doors open and shelves full of the classics.

When John and Marion Wallace moved to NSW seaside town Thirroul, they were looking for a change.

In 1982 the couple opened their first video store, and fast forward to today, it still exists, stocking VHS, DVD and BluRay titles.

Leading Edge Video Thirroul is jam-packed with hard copy films and 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.

John and Marion Wallace have owned Leading Edge Video in Thirroul since the 1980s. Image: Thirroul Guru

"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."

While Wallace is well aware the 'heydays' are far behind them, he said customers are slowly 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.

The couple said people want to know what Marion is watching. Image: Antoinette Lattouf

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.

The final goodbye from Leading Edge Dapto. Image: Facebook

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.

Blockbuster Morley says goodbye. Image: Facebook

John Wallace said he has questioned if he should follow the others and hit eject on their store too.

"Many times I have turned to Marion and wondered if we should close but we are hanging in there ... My son also works here, and he just loves movies," he said.

Wallace said his customers are typically aged between 30 - 60 and most are after the 'classics', foreign films or box set series.

Leading Edge Thirroul is one of the last video stores on Earth. Image: Supplied

The couple'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."

But the couple has a heartbreaking decision to make.

John Wallace during video store primetime. Image: Suppplied

In April they will need to decide whether they are willing to sign a long-term lease and cop a rent increase to stick it out.

I cant commit to five years in this industry, so that is a decision we need to make.

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.

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.

Hopefully, it's good enough to be one of Marion's Picks in the near future.

John and Marion Wallace run Leading Edge Video at seaside town Thirroul. Image: Supplied

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au