'We just outlived LoveFilm'

By Dearbail Jordan
Business reporter

image copyrightJess Connett

For some, this Halloween will be a darker day than those past because LoveFilm by Post, the DVD rental service, bites the dust.

For Tara Judah, a co-director of a movie rental shop in Bristol, it is a day of triumph.

"We just outlived LoveFilm, so that's pretty good in my book," she says.

One of the last remaining film rental stores in the UK, 20th Century Flicks has been trading since 1982 - the era of VHS video tapes.

However, Ms Judah is under no illusions about the future of a business that is an increasingly diminished player in an arena dominated by film and TV streaming giants such as Netflix.

Ms Judah tells BBC Radio 5 Live that she and her two co-directors in 20th Century Flicks, a DVD rental shop in Bristol, "do it for the love of it, not the money. I think that's the most important thing".

She says: "We all grew up with video stores. For us personally it means quite a lot so we still want to do it for other people.

"There are still some people who do still want to rent physical videos from us, to have a personal interaction, to talk about the movies."

In the post

The end of services such as LoveFilm, which was bought by Amazon for £200m in 2011, or nipping down to the local DVD store of an evening has been in the post for a while.

At its height, LoveFilm had two million subscribers. Netflix most recent figures shows it has 109.25 million.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionNetflix shows include Stranger Things, which is now in its second season

Figures from market researchers Kantar Worldpanel show that in 2013, 10.6% of individuals in the UK, rented an DVD. In 2017, that number has fallen to 2.3%.

Renting a DVD from a shop was tossed out of the basket of goods used to measure the UK's inflation rate by the Office of National Statistics in 2009 to be replaced by film postal subscriptions. Five years later, film streaming services entered the inflation basket for the first time.

But still 20th Century Flicks battles on, though the mix of film genre has changed.

Ms Judah says that while the shop still offers big mainstream films, there are a few more of the art house movies "because we know customers think a lot more about whether they'll rent before they buy them".

So maybe there is still growth to be had in being a DVD rental business? "Absolutely not," she says. "Definitely no growth."

Ms Judah says that the rental figures only go downwards, not upwards. "We make alterations to our business all the time, to tweak it, to keep it going and we have always said that we will do it until we can't do it any more."

Does she know when that will be? "I think we've got a little while longer," she answers.

"If you'd asked me a couple of years ago if I'd still be open now, I might not have said 'yes', so we'll just keep limping on."

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