According to new 2021 census data, only 160 Australians are still employed in the video rental industry.
Once a neighborhood staple, the DVD and VHS rental store, or video library, has been largely consigned to the past by the age of streaming.
But for Chris Gentle, director of Network Video in Brunswick Heads on the NSW north coast, it’s no surprise he’s one of 160 people kept employed through physical media rentals. .
“That seems about right, we know there are a few other shops on the coast,” he said.
“There is one in Ballina that we know of, and another in Bellingen. In our store alone, there are four people employed, so it would add up.
The figure from the Australian Bureau of Statistics contrasts sharply with that published in 2000, which showed there were 1,615 video rental outlets in the country.
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Today, even the industry body in charge of these companies, the Australian Video Rental Retailers Association, has ceased to exist.
Having weathered the storm, however, Mr Gentle said he was quietly confident his store had found a community willing to keep it alive.
“We are optimistic, if not completely comfortable. It’s still lean.
“We recently told the community and said, ‘if you want us to stay here, you have to support us’, and we had a pretty good level of support. People are eager to see us stay.
Across the country, a number of other video libraries have hung on and lived to continue serving their community.
In Melbourne, Richmond Image Search remains a cult favourite, while Galactic Video in Adelaide’s CBD boasts a collection Netflix could only dream of.
It’s in the breadth of a collection that video libraries still have streaming services beaten, according to Mr. Gentle.
“We probably have over 25,000 movies, so it’s really great to be able to browse the library without it being chosen for you by an algorithm. You see a lot more different films that you are not normally exposed to.