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'A gap in the community' — Christchurch's last United Video store fades to black

It will be the end of an era this week in Christchurch, when the city's last United Video store shuts up for good.

The New Brighton United Video store, Christchurch's last United Video, is closing after about 25 years of operation. Source: rnz.co.nz

The New Brighton store has operated for about 25 years and was once among more than 100 United Videos dotted around the country.

Darren Scott, who bought the business in New Brighton in 2001, said it had been a hard decision to shut up shop.

"There's some quality people in New Brighton. They can't afford to have Netflix and Sky and something else, but they have the affordability to come down maybe once a month and grab a handful of movies for $10, or a movie each week for $2, and that's their source of entertainment."

He said he used to own several DVD stores in Christchurch, but by around 2017-18 they started to see a real drop in turnover.

The New Brighton store was his last DVD store.

He said Covid-19 had been the death knell for the store, with the lack of new releases, due to theatres overseas being shut and film studios not releasing major titles due to the pandemic.

"Covid has had a major impact, not from the customers coming, but more so our product. The large movie studios are not producing the major blockbuster movies or releasing them, so it's very hard for our customers to come in and rent something that they are used to, when all they have in front of them is a handful of B-grade movies."

Barbara Drayton was a regular at the New Brighton DVD store, and when RNZ visited she had a bag full DVDs which are now for sale rather than for hire.

She said she would miss the personal touch of a local DVD store.

"Shame to see it go. It's going to be a bit of a gap in the community, and the lovely Salina downstairs, we'll miss her. We talk about the different movies that we've watched and what we've enjoyed."

Jeremy Lillico works nearby and makes good use of the DVD store, but admits many of his friends think it is odd that he still hires DVDs.

"They just say things like 'I didn't even know there were DVD shops around'. I'm sure this is one of the last in this part of Christchurch, or Christchurch at all."

He said he would particularly miss the visits with his daughter to choose a film.

"We like to choose together. I grew up with it, and my daughter been growing up with it. It's a pity."

Eilish Bamber-Sawyer said she too had fond memories of coming to the DVD store with her friends when younger, but admitted she had not been in for a while.

She was at the store buying up some old-school horror movies, and said the DVD store had a better selection than most streaming services.

"Some of the older films, it's definitely harder to find on the streaming services, especially when it comes to horror. I know there is a streaming service for horror, called Shutter. I don't subscribe to that but I might have to now that my DVD stores are closing and I can't get my nice horrors anymore."

At the end of last year, three other United Video stores called it quits, including the Whangamatā store.

Shelley Hughes had run the Whangamatā store for eight years, but said Covid-19 also put them over the edge.

"Everyone learned how to use the internet if they hadn't already. And the reason we decided to call it quits when we did was we weren't getting the new releases through like we would normally every month, just purely because no one overseas is making them at the moment, so that part of the industry has died."

United Video still has stores in Timaru, Te Puke, Invercargill, Morrinsville and Whangārei, and Christchurch still has one remaining DVD hire store, Alice in Videoland, which focuses on arthouse movies.

Whangārei United Video owner Tania Couper said they used to get eight or nine new movies a week, but now were only getting two or three a month.

She said this did put off a lot of their regular users.

Couper said she did know, however, that they provided an important service for some people in her community.

"We have a lot of people who live up here who are off the grid, and can't afford the internet, don't have that service at home. So they come and get a whole pile of movies for their family for the week. We're more a public service than a business these days," she said with a laugh.

Couper said although the future was uncertain, she enjoyed the business and knew her customers did too. She hoped they would continue operating for at least months, and maybe even for the next year.

rnz.co.nz