End of an era: Bundy’s last movie rental shuts up shop
IT'S the end of an era for Bundaberg with the town's one remaining video store announcing their closure.
Gone are the days where children peruse the aisles of their local video rental shop on weekends and school holidays, searching for their favourite film titles.
It's a fond memory for many Australian families who would settle in for a night at home with a variety of chick flicks, action films and Disney movies and buttery popcorn of course.
But with online streaming services making movies and television shows so accessible, Bundaberg's E-Time owners Steve and Karen Ford said they knew it was only a matter of time before they had to make the tough decision.
"We actually own the shop and decided to take over from the previous tenant in 2015, so my wife decided to give it a go and it's been a fun little journey," Mr Ford said.
"It was a really hard decision to make because of staff and customers that really rely on us, but I think it was inevitable with the industry.
"When we took it over we only expected a year out of it, but it's been four now, so it's been a lot longer than we initially thought."
Taking the business on with a bit of hesitation, the couple said while the industry was new to both of them at the time, they had really enjoyed the journey and learning the ropes.
While the industry as a whole failed to recover after the introduction of online streaming services, rental stores still had the advantage of getting first access to new releases.
But with a lack of films hitting the cinema screens this year and no new releases in the last month, the business owners admit it was the main contributing factor to their decision.
"With COVID-19, we didn't know how the store would go - I thought the store would pick up because people were locked up at home but it stayed the same or dropped slightly which surprised me," Mr Ford said.
"It really wasn't a financial decision for us and it was actually based around there being no Blockbuster movies coming out, so we were finding it really hard to keep customers interested.
"Some of our customers love to come in and get the old movies that they can hire out for a week which is great, but our target market really based on those new releases."
Movie rental stores have also struggled with the lack of support available to maintain the unique computer software used instore, creating a big problem when technical issues arise.
Previously operating as Civic Video, the store has been serving the public for years with the clientele proving to be loyal up until the last weeks of trade.
Representing all age demographics, many customers rely on the store as they don't have access to the internet or just enjoyed the heartfelt tradition.
"They want to come in for the experience so dad, mum and the kids each pick a movie and buy a bar of chocolate or a drink - that's what disturbs me more than anything, these experiences that we've grown up with are no longer available," Mr Ford said.
"If there was some way we could have kept it going and kept it alive, we would have tried absolutely everything, but there's just a bit too much stacked against us, not in our favour."
Mr Ford said some had taken the news badly, including one of their favourite customers, a middle-aged man who lives with a disability.
"His dad drops him off every Saturday morning and he'll spend an hour in the store choosing movies," he said.
"When we told him the news, he broke down in store and that's the hard part.
"We would like to thank our customers for their continued loyalty and we're sorry we couldn't keep it going any longer."
The pair plan to relocate their other business which specialises in commercial and government cabling and security systems, into the store and said they would try to retain as many employees as possible in the process.
Set to close over the next few weeks, the store has concluded its rental service and will be selling all stock in the lead-up to the closure, with more than 12,000 titles available and starting from 50c.
The local Blockbuster store closed in 2017, making E-Time the last shop for movie rentals left operating in Bundaberg. Rental kiosks are still operating.