PHOTO: The Invercargill store was one of the last vestiges of a once grand entertainment tradition. STUFF
End of an Era: Last United Video Store in South Island Closes After 40 Years
Fond Memories of a Bygone Entertainment Era
Remember the days of strolling down to the local video store on a Saturday night? For many, that nostalgic experience has faded into the past. However, the South Island has held onto this tradition until now, as the final chapter closes on the last United Video store in Invercargill after serving the community for nearly four decades.
The Reign of South City’s United Video Store
Before the advent of streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and TVNZ+, the South City location in Invercargill held the spotlight as the go-to destination for drama, sci-fi, and fantasy enthusiasts. The catchy United Video jingle, “we’ve got the world of video,” might even ring a bell in your memory.
After an enduring run in the movie rental business, owners Daryle and Kim Blackler have made the bittersweet decision to permanently close their doors.
Recollections and Farewell
“To be honest, I don’t know where the 40 years have gone,” Daryle shared with 1News.
Patrons interviewed by 1News within the store shared their heartfelt recollections:
“It’s very sad that this is closing. It’s a piece of Invercargill history,” one lamented.
“A few memories come back… my daughter [worked] here,” another reminisced.
“[Customers] have fond memories when they were kids, they used to come here and then they’d become teenagers and adults and they still came here,” one customer fondly recalled.
Despite a loyal customer base and diversification into pop culture art, comics, and trading cards, the store struggled to keep pace with the soaring popularity of streaming platforms.
Challenges and Changing Landscape
The closure was influenced by various factors, including a shift in technology, scarcity of new content on DVDs due to certain media giants ceasing supply, and the challenging impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We suffered from not just the technology change but we suffered through Covid… we would have lost around 50% of our customers in the first lockdown in 2020,” Daryle explained.
He further elucidated that the production, packaging, and distribution costs of physical DVDs had become burdensome for major film companies, who found it more economical to offer their content online.
A Glimpse at Remaining United Video Stores
With only a handful of United Video stores left, notably the ‘M&Ms’ (Masterton and Morrinsville) situated in the North Island, a few independent players persist across the nation.
The Blacklers, owners of multiple locations in the lower South Island, including Invercargill, Dunedin, Gore, and Queenstown, saw all their stores shuttered. The remaining stock – about 80,000 DVDs and video games – has been consolidated back at their original South City store, some necessitating storage in containers due to the sheer volume.
Since announcing the closure over six weeks ago, the demand for DVDs has remained fervent, with the Blacklers having sold approximately 30,000 thus far.
Reflections on a Transformative Journey
Reflecting on the heyday and evolution of the industry, Daryle recounted the abundance of franchise stores during the ’80s and ’90s.
“This used to be a Woolworths supermarket,” Daryle revealed.
“I thought, ‘It’s big, is it too big?’ And I thought, ‘Nah, I can work it’.”
He reminisced about the VHS versus Beta tape battle, the rise of DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, and the joys of connecting with actors through overseas trips.
“A lot of late nights if you wanna watch them all too!” Daryle added.
The Blacklers’ commitment extended to scouring the globe for DVDs not stocked in their store, hoping to entice returning customers. He recalled bustling weekends with queues out the door and expressed gratitude to their staff for their tireless dedication.
As the Blacklers embark on a new chapter after bidding farewell to their beloved venture, Daryle’s favorite film, “Pulp Fiction,” symbolizes the end of one era and the anticipation of what lies ahead.