By Matthew Pearce
Video may have killed the radio star, but streaming didn’t kill the DVD star – at least in the case of a Mount Morgan store.
Undeterred by the rise of Netflix and other streaming services, Fox Video prides itself on being one of the last remaining DVD rental shops in the country.
Larry and Louise Fox opened the Morgan Street outlet in March 1994 – after starting a family they wanted a job they could share and a video rental shop was ideal as it only required a only staff member in the store at a time.
The Foxes began by renting videos, before moving on to DVDs and Blu-rays. Nearly 30 years later, the small store is still going strong, despite the downfall of big chains like Blockbuster and Video Ezy.
Louise attributed Fox Video’s longevity to a variety of factors unique to Golden Mount, including the city’s notoriously spotty television reception, an older population that may not be internet savvy, and “off-the-grid “Locals who always appreciate a good movie.
The Foxes also own the building, so they don’t have to worry about rent.
Although they don’t have as many customers as they did in their heyday, those who remain are very loyal.
“You can pretty much plan your day when people are on the move – I know hardly anyone comes in at a certain time of day so that’s when I go to the post office,” said Louisa.
“You have people who are real movie fans, they’re really into it. Some people like things you wouldn’t expect – middle-aged women whose favorite thing is horror or a little old lady who loves kung fu movies.
The Foxes have faced many obstacles over the years. In 1997, just three years after they opened, the entire rental industry nearly collapsed due to the pay-TV boom. Later, pirated movies and illegal downloads impacted the business before the rise of streaming services like Netflix dealt a blow that killed the majority of their other stores.
Louise said Fox Video’s peak years were in the early 2000s following the introduction of DVDs.
“DVDs reinvigorated everything – having better picture and sound seemed to entice everyone to go out and buy a DVD player.”
Despite the DVD boom, the Foxes continued to rent videos until 2009 – at which point they thought it was time to move on as only one customer rented them.
Fox Video has a catalog of 20,000 DVDs and Blu-rays, having maintained its core library for the past 20 years.
“We’ve tried to keep at least one copy of each movie – there’s a second bookcase in the back that’s as big as the one in the store,” Louise said.
The Foxes are both lifelong cinephiles and Fox Video’s collection includes many hard-to-find films elsewhere, including a range of Australian classics.
“We’ve actually spoken to filmmakers who have told us Australian films are going to be very hard to get because they won’t be on streaming services,” Louise said.
A customer is a big fan of a 2003 Australian film that probably wouldn’t be considered a classic – Ned, a comedic take on the Ned Kelly story.
“He loves the movie and couldn’t find it anywhere else.”
While new releases have traditionally been the store’s most popular rentals, that’s changed in recent years with more movement in older titles.
“Over the past two or three years, it’s become more of a library thing, probably because we have a deal where you pay once and get unlimited movies all week,” Louise said.
As one of Australia’s few remaining DVD rental shops, Fox Video has even become a bit of a tourist attraction.
“Tourists will come and take pictures, just out of nostalgia,” Louise said.
“Families visiting the city come with their kids who are really excited to see a ‘movie store’.”
While Larry has spoken in the past about retiring in 2020, the Foxes are still not ready to let their store go.
“Over the years, people have told us that they would like to buy the store. We had to explain that it doesn’t make a lot of money, but there was genuine interest,” Louise said.
“We like the idea of handing over the shop to someone in its entirety, catalog and all. Trying to replace the whole collection would be impossible, some of those movies you can’t even get anymore.
“A while ago I saw that Netflix had 10,000 titles and I thought, well, I have over 10,000 titles here.”