End of an era

By David Kavanagh | posted on July 4, 2019

THE Great Southern’s last rental video store will close its doors early next month, with its owner blaming digital media and the internet for declining customer numbers.

Albany Mega Movies proprietor Brett Mosel said his 24-year business venture ceased renting out its collection of more than 28,000 DVDs on Sunday and will officially close on August 2 after a month-long clearance sale.

This comes two months after another Albany entertainment fixture, the Central 70 Drive-In on Stead Road, screened 1982 film Running On Empty as its final showing on a long weekend in April.

Denmark video store Mainstreet Movies also closed on June 30.

“Technology has caught up with us basically … brick and mortar stores are just battling,” Mr Mosel said.

“We were the main place of entertainment for watching movies for years, but now with streaming there’s so much choice online and you don’t have to go out.

“You’ve got Netflix, iView, Stan, you’ve got everything else and people just flick channels and watch it. We’re getting to be a nation of stay-at-home at night.”

“We’re also classed as one of the top 50 countries in the world for illegal downloading.”

In its heyday, around 500 people would browse Albany Mega Movie’s shelves for a flick to rent on Fridays, with the most popular trading hours between 6-8pm.

On its last night of renting on Sunday, Mr Mosel said just over 60 people came into the store.

“Now our main trading hours are between 3pm and 5pm after school when people go home,” he added.

“We lost the 18 to 35 generation of customers a while ago, our generation now is probably the 40-year-olds and onwards.”

Mr Mosel attributed the changing demographic and quantity of customers streaming through the aisles to the ease and speed at which people can access video entertainment content via the internet.

He said his video store wasn’t the only business or industry impacted by digitisation, with retail and the food industry also feeling the heat of online shopping and delivery services like UberEats.

“The internet is changing everybody’s way of life and we’re tied up in it like a lot of other businesses,” he said.

“Retail is just about impossible to run in towns now, we’ve lost so many in Albany in the past 18 months and it’s just getting worse.”

“It’s a sad plight.”

Businessman Tom Kennedy, who took over the helm of the Central 70 Drive-In in late 2012, said his own struggles came from a lack of consumer interest in “nostalgia” and technological pressures.

He spoke with the Weekender as he worked to dismantle the screen of his drive-in cinema with a crane on Monday.

“It’s all pretty sad in a way,” he said of Albany Mega Movie’s closure.

“[Brett is] entertaining at home, I’m trying to get people out and about and remembering the good old times … but people do not care.

“Albany is so unmotivated, they whinge about having nothing to do and when you give them something to do they still whinge that it’s too expensive or too hard.”

Mr Kennedy said unless businesses were selling “haemorrhoid cream and dentures” it would be difficult for them to remain sustainable.

The self-described cinephile played films using a 1080p commercial projector during the six or so years of the drive-in’s operation and ruled the venture untenable as times changed.

He said he could not acquire the licenses needed to screen newer films because that required a digital projector valued at around $100,000.

Manager at Orana Cinemas Albany Memo Cardoza said he understood the drive-in owner’s concern, adding many smaller cinemas around Australia struggled with running costs.

He noted that film distributors around the country were “switching over from film to actual digital” and that it was “expensive for some” to keep up with the change.

“We don’t really have problems with that change of technology at Orana,” he said.

Mr Cardoza said although streaming services like Netflix were very popular, large franchise cinemas like Orana were not threatened in the same way as smaller video stores like Albany Mega Movies.

“What the cinemas really sell is the experience to come to the cinema, come by the candy bar and go sit down in front of a big screen,” he said.

“The movies are also coming here before anywhere else and we offer different kinds of movies for any age and different kinds of people.”

While Mr Kennedy said he would now focus on running Albany Tenpin Bowling, Mr Mosel said he did not yet know what he’d do in the future.

“I’d like to stay open, I don’t want to shut,” the 60-year-old said.

With Albany Mega Movies gone, the closest dedicated video rental store to Albany is Civic in Collie, a three-hour, 280-kilometre drive.