Video rental stores face final curtain

MADDISON MANGAN

Before there were online streaming services, such as Netflix and Stan, the only way people could enjoy films from home was by visiting your local video store.

With online streaming now ubiquitous, videos stores have suffered – but there is one store on the Gold Coast still standing.

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Owner Martin Thomsen is worried for what the future may hold. Photo: Maddison Mangan

Martin and Diane Thomsen have owned Network Video Varsity Lakes for 14 years and experienced the cultural shift first-hand, forcing them to consider an end to an era.

“It’s been hard to see so many other businesses close. When we first opened we were such a large store with lots of employees but now we have had to downsize and only have three other employees working with us,” Mr Thomsen said.

“Streaming services have had a big part to play in this change.”

Network Video plays up the nostalgia of renting – one of the reasons they have survived.

“It’s really a sense of community,” Mrs Thomsen said.

“I think people like the feeling you get when you walk into this store, it’s like going back to a time when things were simpler.”

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Network Video Varsity Lakes store. Photo: Maddison Mangan

Netflix was founded in 1997 and was a rental by mail service focusing on DVD sales, much like Network Video.

In 2007 the American-owned business switched to streaming media online. The improvement of technology subsequently made video stores inefficient and irrelevant to most.

“Netflix has been a major influence on the popularity of stores like ours,” Mr Thomsen said.

“We still have a very loyal customer base, some we have seen grow up into adults from childhood, but we have also seen a lot of people switch to staying home and not coming into the store, which is sad.”

The family business hopes to continue operating but is realistic about needing the support of their local community.

“We’ve definitely felt the pinch of less people coming to hire, but we will try and stay open for as long as we financially can,” Mr Thomsen said.

“We love what we have here and love the opportunity to keep a bit of history alive.”

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