Sydney farewells the last of its video stores

Max Fang at Manly’s last DVD store in 2016. Picture: Troy Snook
Max Fang at Manly’s last DVD store in 2016. Picture: Troy Snook

If video killed the radio star, then Netflix is the assassin of the video store.

“When one of our 70-year-old customers came in recently and said ‘I’m not dead, I’ve just got Netflix’, I told my husband, ‘I think it’s time to go’,” says Vicki Aspro, co-owner of South Sydney DVD.

Across the country hundreds of video stores have shut up shop in recent years, going the way of the humble CD shop and one-hour photo developer.

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These businesses will be quirky tales of the past for the next generation, but were a fixture for anyone who grow up in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I’ve been open since 1987 and I just don’t want to let it go,” Peter Aspro says.

“Honestly, it feels like someone is chopping off an arm or leg. I just can’t believe it,” he adds.

Video store Sydney

Now available on Netflix.

South Sydney DVD, a local Redfern institution, has had several addresses during its lifetime, but has been operating out of its Botany Rd site in Waterloo for about a decade.

“We were lucky enough to get pretty cheap rent, so we were able to stay open, but we really were just paying wages and not earning much else,” he says.

When the Aspros next open their shop’s well-trodden doors to the public on March 19, it will be for a massive fire sale.

There will be more than 8000 DVDs to be sold off at bargain basement prices.

Video player

When was the last time you saw one of these?

But the couple is not alone. This month two more video shops in Sydney are set to close, leaving just a handful in still trading in Australia.

Owner of Civic Video Five Dock and Bondi Beach, John Price, this week locked up the inner west location for the last time after being in the video rental business for 35 years. His Bondi store will say its last goodbyes on April 20.

It’s the last of an empire for Price, who once owned several stores in the Civic Video chain, which was at one time an Australian household name.

And the video victims are far and wide. At the end of the month Midland Video Ezy in suburban Perth – one of the biggest of its kind in Australia – will close for good.

After nearly three decades in the business, owners John and Colleen Lebrasse told their local paper, The Midland Reporter, that the video rental industry was dying out due to illegal downloading and worldwide domination of streaming services.

“When Netflix first came on the scene three years ago we started to see a decline in video rentals about six months later,” he says.

Video store Northern Territory

Megan Johnston, 18, at one of the NT’s last video stores. Picture: Keri Megelus.

Lebrasse says when he bought the business in 1990, he had around 3000 regular customers. That number more recently dropped to 300 a week.

“The number of people renting videos continued to decline over the years and unfortunately now there is no longer enough customers to make the business viable,” he says.

“I believe it’s only a matter of time before the last few remaining video stores shut down.”

He says his loyal customers had been devastated by the impending closure.

“Some of them were crying when they heard the news,” he says.

Lebrasse is now in the process of selling the store’s titanic stash of discs, which total more than 60,000 titles.

“Before we close on March 31 we are having a massive sale and people can pick up 10 weekly DVDs for just $20 or 10 blu ray discs for $30,” he says.

This article from The Daily Telegraph first appeared as “Sydney’s last video stores are closing down”.