New Zealand's largest DVD rental store closes

Chris Keall, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 3 January 2019, 11:54AM
Civic Video Glenfield owners Nick and Clare Thomas. (Photo / Supplied)
Civic Video Glenfield owners Nick and Clare Thomas. (Photo / Supplied)

For the past couple of years, Civic Glenfield has been the go-to for media doing a "DVD rentals aren't dead" story.

Now, owners Nick and Clare Thomas are finally waving the white flag and closing their operation, billed as NZ's largest remaining DVD rental outlet.

They will sell its collection of some 60,000 movies and games.

The Thomases' Glenfield outlet was one of just a half-dozen left in the Civic chain, which once numbered 135 stores.

It was the only dedicated video store on the North Shore, and its closure comes on the heels of the iconic central Auckland arthouse rental outlet, Videon, shutting up shop.

The Thomases bought Civic Video Glenfield in 1998, changing its name to Civic Glenfield in 2015 after the franchise exited NZ.

In May this year, Nick Thomas told the Herald he was unfazed by rival Video Ezy pulling out of the NZ market and closing its remaining stores.

But he also conceded that challenges were mounting up.

One was the well-publicised threat from streaming services like Netflix, Lightbox and Amazon Prime.

But another was more subtle and equally challenging.

"There's no doubt streaming has taken away a chunk of our business but what I think is going to be the downfall of it is the lack of titles. All the major distributors have gone back to Australia," Thomas said.

"The second-tier titles don't come in [anymore] as it's not cost effective, and from a business point of view, that is going to hit us more than streaming."

Most DVDs and Blu-rays are imported from Australia and are graded according to its own system but have to be rated again under the New Zealand classification system.

It costs between $1200 and $1500 to have a single title rated, Thomas said.

Large-budget Hollywood films are frequently imported but second-tier films, the type which Thomas says gives rental stores their point of difference, are not.

"Blockbusters come in as they can sell them to JB Hi-Fi, The Warehouse, retailers like that, but the smaller titles and smaller distributors are all battling to sell enough units. If they can't sell enough units then it's not worth bringing them in, and that's my biggest worry."

The Thomases also flagged piracy as a concern.

When the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill was going through Parliament in 2011, the couple made a submission, saying, "We have seen a significant drop off in the number of DVDs being hired over the last few years.

"We do understand that many people now choose to obtain their movies digitally. That is fair enough where they are buying them legitimately.

"However, the reality is that the majority of people are downloading movies without paying for them. We cannot compete with free, illegally-obtained) movies."

The legislation, popularly known as the "three-strikes" or "Skynet" law came into force in 2011, but saw only a handful of cases brought by the music industry and none by the movie industry amid complaints about the costs and practicality of the legislation.

The current government is currently reviewing copyright law.

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