The longer he survived, the longer you thought he could last forever. A realistic, brick-and-mortar, fair-trade video rental store? In the center of Sydney? In 2022?
Well no. Ultimately, there wasn’t enough room in the modern world for this humble DVD store to co-exist with the juggernauts of Netflix, Stan, Amazon, and Disney. The momentum of modernity was simply too great.
People were sometimes surprised to learn that such a place still existed. Tech evangelists in particular loved to scoff – who would rent a DVD when we have the wonders of streaming?
Quite a few of us, it turned out. The Film Club, which closed in Darlinghurst over the weekend, had tens of thousands of members on its books and owner Ben Kenny says hundreds – possibly as many as 1,000 – were active. About 100 were regular enough for him to know their names and faces.
As far as Kenny knows, the Film Club was Sydney’s last video rental store – certainly he doesn’t know of any others nearby. There was an association that kept track of these things, but it closed in 2016.
Kenny bought the store in 2011 when the writing was already on the wall, hoping to make it another three or five years. It lasted 11 years. “Somebody had to be the last survivor,” he says. “It felt like a calling, really. It felt like no one else was there to catch him as he fell.
What was really interesting about the Film Club was its collection. Whether it was alien, arthouse, queer, cult or horror, these were things you’re not going to find on Netflix; movies you’ve never heard of but loved. Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”.
As Kenny says, “It was about the serendipity of discovery and finding something you didn’t know you were looking for.”