This week marks a bittersweet moment in the Simian household. Well, two, really. First and foremost is another year marked off by Jet Jr as he burns through his single-digit birthdays like a cheetah on Ritalin, but such things are unavoidable, and calls are for celebration. No, the second is the cruellest marker of time's passage, for this holiday weekend the labours of our local video rental shop cease, its dorrs to close forever.
For the past month Civic Video have been selling
off their wares from top to bottom - DVDs, Blu Rays, TV series, movies,
games, refreshments, shelves... like a distressing Dick Smith closure
but cheaper and with longer queues. I defy any self-respecting
staffmember to resist a sad and understandably rueful acknowledgement
that this same throng could have saved the business on any other day,
but over this short period it's been a quiet and certain bleeding out of
a store that was a real life saver at times - particularly wet weekends
and school holidays.
As a past librarian I've frequently had to
make hard decisions about collection management. They're hard decisions
because beyond the cold equations of linear metres, storage overheads,
rental and futureproofing, there's an emotional attachment to a
well-stocked collection. Like a lot of people my generation and older, I
like to discover by browsing and through serendipity, and you can't do
that much with what resources we have at home for domestic film viewing.
We don't torrent movies (though I do admit I've been the grateful
recipient of one or two in a bind), and we don't have Netflicks - though
we suspect this will have to change at some stage. Sure, the hit rate
for Civic was sometimes not our friend, and there would be a
distressingly-large number of scratched discs that would have to be
returned, swapped, and maybe returned again to be swapped for a
different title for a crestfallen Jet Jr, but the store was a mainstay
of our little suburb, and the staff were unceasingly friendly,
courteous, and helpful. I'll miss them - I do already. I have been, I
admit freely, in an extended period of mouring for the old place, even
if I confess I haven't been using it as much as I should have, or would
have done were I a younger ape with more time on my hands.
But as I
say, it's been a real friend. When I broke my back nearly ten years ago
I spent a lot of recuperating hours finally watching Outrageous
Fortune. I binge-watched when it wasn't fashionable to! Thanks to the
less-recent closure of a neighbouring Video-Ezy, Civic's collection was
also pretty decent for arthouse fare, and their World and SF collections
weren't bad, either.
Alas, no more. And two visits to the shop
post-closure announcement have meant some sad purchases were made - I
have Batman v Superman now, for my sins, plus My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
(oh boy), The Spiderwick Chronicles, Snowpiercer, E.T, Galaxy Quest, a
Count Duckula collection (which may be scratched beyond play but at
$2.25 was worth the gamble) and The Bean Movie. The father and son
before me in the queue second time around walked - or at least staggered
off - with just over ninety titles ranging from Dog Day Afternoon to
The Delinquents for a cool hundred bucks. On my first visit a small boy
eyed my quartet of movies and quietly asked 'Do you have Hunt for the
Wilderpeople?'. I didn't. No chance. How am I going to see it now?!
Whole collections of Tolkien, Rowling and Meyers I passed by, and I
regret not picking up Frankenweenie when I saw it, but on the whole I
felt somehow culpable in part to a good shop's demise.
So, off to
Netflicks or Neon we Simians march and call it progress. I've known
some great video shops in my time. Well, no I haven't. I've known maybe
one or two - but Civic Video in Johnsonville along with Amalgamated
Video in Kilbirnie were the best two Wellington shops I frequented. Aro
Video deserves its dogged survival, and long may it continue, but to me
it's never been as friendly, as homely, or as handily local.