End of an era as Sydney’s last DVD shop closes its doors

last dvd shop

A Film Club tote bag was nabbed by loyal customers to remember the store. Source: Facebook/Film Club

Sydney’s last DVD rental store became a relic of the not-too-distant past after it closed its doors on Friday for good, pushed out of the market by heavy-hitters like Netflix and Stan.

Film Club in Darlinghurst was purchased by owner Ben Kenny in 2011 — already fairly late in the day for DVDs, he admitted to Nine Newspapers, but the small shop boasted up to 1000 active customers, and about 100 regulars.

They’d come from all over Sydney to peruse the titles on the shelves, Kenny says — a far more intensive decision-making process than skating over the digitised equivalents on the TV.

So how can a DVD shop command such a crowd in 2022? It could be down to Film Club’s vast collection of titles, spanning horror, cult classic, queer, foreign and arthouse — but Kenny went his separate ways with most of the collection at the weekend.

In his final week of trading, Kenny donated 50% of his daily takings to a different charity each day — beginning with the Red Cross, which are helping clean up after the catastrophic flood disaster in northern NSW and southeast Queensland.

“I think we served our purpose in the community. We made a difference and exposed people to films they wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” he says.

“Film Club may have ended, but films will live on.”

Kenny says his closure wasn’t a product of COVID-19 restrictions — he was able to trade throughout using a vending-machine style of rentals when the rules got really tight. But COVID-19 wasn’t exactly kind to the anachronistic business either, even though so many people were at home and bored.

“More than anything it just felt like the time was right,” he told Nine Newspapers.

“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.”

But, he says, “I wanted to get out before it became a bit sad and desperate”.

Now Kenny is thinking hard about how to create a new project within his passionate film buff community — though he’s not sure what that looks like yet.

As for the bricks and mortar once home to Sydney’s last DVD store, it has been stripped bare and painted, ready for its next occupant in Darlinghurst — “probably another hairdresser”, Kenny says.

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