Downloads killed the video store

06:44, Apr 17 2014
CLOSING TIME: Dara Harding at Reeltime Home Entertainment shop in Albert Street.

The popularity of internet downloads has claimed Palmerston North's largest independent video store after more than 30 years of drama, suspense, horror and comedy.

Reeltime Home Entertainment in Albert St is selling all its 18,000-strong DVD collection at rock-bottom prices and will lock the door for the final time on April 24.

For Reeltime owners Dara and Todd Harding and longstanding employee Bruce Smith it is a sad time - the end of an era - and something they wish did not have to happen.

"We are not friends with Kim Dotcom," Smith said.

Dotcom is facing copyright infringement charges in the US relating the file-sharing website he founded, and is fighting extradition.

The Hardings bought Reeltime - then Video Concepts - in 2010 after the business was forced into liquidation. They did it as loyal customers who just wanted to get inside.


"We've been coming here for 13 years or so and we pulled in here one night to rent a DVD and it was closed," Dara Harding said.

"Todd could see the DVD on the shelf that he wanted to rent, I think it was something like Food Inc, and we decided to buy the place so we could get in and watch it."

The couple decided to put the business on the market in June. It was partly because they did not want to commit to another three-year lease in an industry "devalued" by internet downloads, and partly because they wanted more time to work on their graphic design business.

"We were hoping to on-sell it so we could come back here and rent still," Dara Harding said.

A buyer was lined up but the sale fell through two weeks ago, leaving the Hardings no option but to sell their stock and shut before the lease runs out.

That stock included movies from as early as 1920, hundreds of foreign and avant garde films, and the self-proclaimed finest adult film collection in the city. About half of it has already gone but there's still some treasures to be found among the shelves, and the Hardings say they plan to drop prices even lower next week.

Todd Harding said the internet was far from the only thing affecting video stores' bottom line - weather and events were surprisingly important - but what it had done was forced industry chain stores such as United Video to lower their prices.

A tenant has yet to be found to replace Reeltime.

Smith believes the biggest change he has presided over in 20 years at the store has been in the switch from VHS to DVD.

The store opened as Midway Video at Christmas 1983 and has been through four different names and six different owners since then.

Some things never change though. Smith reckons he could write a book of all the excuses he has heard for late returns. "If there were that many people who actually were in the hospital and couldn't return them on time, the hospitals would be overrun," he said.

Manawatu Standard