Last stand of the movie rental

Movie rent­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is still on dis­play through­out ru­ral New­found­land and Labrador

The Compass - - Sports - BY KYLE GREEN­HAM THE NORTH­ERN PEN kyle.green­ham@north­ern­pen.ca

Ru­ral New­found­land and Labrador may be one of the last av­enues for an in­dus­try on the brink of ex­tinc­tion in most ar­eas of the coun­try – the movie rental.

Find­ing a place to rent films can be nearly im­pos­si­ble in many boom­ing and pop­u­lated Cana­dian cities. But in the out­ports and small towns of New­found­land and Labrador, it is rarely a chal­lenge to find a gas sta­tion or cor­ner store that of­fers DVDs and Blu-rays for rent.

Of seven com­mu­ni­ties the North­ern Pen suc­cess­fully con­tacted for this story, from the tips of the penin­sula and down as far as Port au Choix, only one did not have a movie rental lo­ca­tion.

On­line stream­ing ser­vices like Net­flix brought a quick death to most of the in­dus­try, killing off ma­jor con­glom­er­ate chains like Block­buster. Jumbo Video, the pop­u­lar video chain in New­found­land and Labrador, closed the doors on its last store in 2015.

Rhea Earle, who works at Hed­der­son’s Store in St. Lu­naire-Gri­quet, says even with de­pleted de­mand from ser­vices like Net­flix, their lo­ca­tion still man­ages to rent out roughly 30 ti­tles a month. Earle says they have the usual lo­cals who rent, but they also rent to many visi­tors dur­ing tourist sea­son.

The Irving gas sta­tion in St. An­thony also has a selec­tion of films that still get rented.

Lid­stone’s Irving and Con­ve­nience store in Rod­dick­ton stands as one of the more suc­cess­ful chains of the penin­sula. With over 100 films in their selec­tion and two new ti­tles ar­riv­ing each week, Brenda Ran­dell says the store has a faith­ful base of lo­cal renters.

“Some weeks we rent out about 15 or 20 movies, some­times more,” said Ran­dell. “They do very well.”

While the avail­abil­ity is still there, suc­cess is not be­ing found in some spots of the prov­ince.

Forteau Sales and Ser­vice in Labrador has a selec­tion of films, but has seen a steady de­ple­tion in the num­ber of movies it rents. As well, North­ern Mo­tors in Flower’s Cove has around 50 ti­tles, but owner Kerry Gould says they rarely leave the shelves nowa­days.

“The last month or so we haven’t got­ten any new movies in,” said Gould. “We don’t rent them out much so we’ve pretty much given it up now.”

Stores like Forteau Sales and Ser­vice and North­ern Mo­tors may end up sell­ing off most of their movies in the near fu­ture.

Faye Buckle, owner of the C&V Va­ri­ety in Port au Choix, says the rise of stream­ing ser­vices has done a lot to col­lapse the suc­cess of the movie rentals her busi­ness of­fers. Buckle can re­call the days when rent­ing out films was a sta­ple of the store’s busi­ness, but those days are gone.

“On­line you can steal movies wher­ever you want now, it killed us com­pletely,” said Buckle. “We might rent one out one night, but there might be five nights we rent out nei­ther one.”

Still, Buckle say she re­ceives new ti­tles ev­ery two weeks. Although, the rou­tine top­ping up of her movie col­lec­tion has an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

“I want the gentle­man who brings the movies here to take them, that’s how few rentals there are now,” she said. “It’s just a waste of space on the wall. We rent them, but we’ll never make money on it.”

To­day the sight of movies for rent re­main a com­mon­place of ru­ral New­found­land, but for many ar­eas it ap­pears to be go­ing the same way as Block­buster.

While small out­port gas sta­tions and stores stand as a last ves­tige of the movie rent­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, th­ese busi­nesses are still be­ing threat­ened by the easy ac­ces­si­bil­ity to movies pro­vided by stream­ing ser­vices and il­le­gal down­load­ing.

KYLE GREEN­HAM/THE NORTH­ERN PEN

On­line stream­ing ser­vices like Net­flix brought a quick death to ma­jor chains like Block­buster. To­day, find­ing a place to rent films in pop­u­lated Cana­dian cities can be a chal­lenge, but DVDs re­main a com­mon sight in the gas sta­tions and cor­ner stores of ru­ral New­found­land and Labrador.

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