The hallmark of any great movie is that strange sense of loss that you get when the end credits begin to roll; that yearning for it to go on just a little bit longer. This is exactly the feeling that the owner of Village DVD and his customers are now experiencing as the outlet prepares to close its doors at the end of January.
Ian Botha has operated from Shop 1A of Harfield Village Centre in 48 Second Avenue for the past 11 years. Marketed as “a DVD rental store with a difference!”, Village DVD carried over 14 000 titles and allowed customers to do their bookings and pre-bookings online.
It was also known for its wide variety in titles which included blockbuster movies, classics, Art House and Cinema Nouveau releases and a huge selection of television series, including ITV and BBC series.
Botha says when he decided to open a DVD shop all those years ago, an outlet in Harfield Village was his first choice.
“Harfield Village Centre had just been renovated. I knew the little CBD community in Harfield and I felt it was the perfect location for what I wanted,” Botha explains.
As the owner and manager, Botha manned the store almost every day.
“I got to know everyone in the neighbourhood. They became like family,” he adds.
Botha says although he has been agonising over the store’s future for a few months, the decision to close was quite sudden; two weekends ago to be exact. He says that several factors played into it; chief among them was the hard lockdown which began last year March.
“My customers had been resisting streaming services, but with the hard lockdown they had no alternative but to look to Netflix. When restrictions were relaxed, most came back, but not all. And we found that we were sharing them with Netflix. Our turnover did take a knock,” Botha explains.
However, he says, they were rebuilding the business, but then Ster Kinekor decided to pull out of the DVD market with rumours that the other distributor would follow suit in a few months.
“With no local distributors of DVDs in South Africa, DVD rental outlets will have to import directly from the UK at considerable cost. And with the UK’s Brexit exit and lockdown, their customs is in a bit of a state,” he says.
The pending renewal of the premises’ lease turned out to be the deciding factor.
“My lease is up at the end of January and the landlord wanted another 12-month lease signed. With all of the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19, I felt it wasn’t a good time to commit to another year.”
Martin Slabbert, a resident of Harfield Village, says the closure of the outlet is a huge loss to the community.
“My wife, Nicole, and I moved into the area about six years ago and we have been supporting his business for most of the time that we have lived in the area. Every time we walk in the door, he greets you by name and is genuinely interested in how you are doing,” Slabbert says.
He says he always had a chuckle when his wife said she was “quickly” going to pick up DVDs.
“I knew this would never be a ‘quick’ visit because she and Ian would always have a long and enjoyable ‘skinder’ about things. You don’t get many companies or business owners or small shops like that anymore.”
Slabbert says what makes the outlet even more special is the sense of nostalgia it elicits.
“I don’t think there are many DVD stores left these days, and perhaps we all yearn back to an era before streaming video sites and satellite TV channels. There is also something special about planning what you’re going to watch and then going to fetch it,” he says.
James Fernie, also a local resident, says he was devastated at the news that Village DVD was closing down.
“I have been a client right from the very outset. There are no longer any other DVD stores in Cape Town. Ian was always very proactive in getting the latest movies. It is disconcerting, many movies are not on Netflix or Showmax. Now I am at a loss,” he says.
According to Fernie, the impact of the lockdown on local businesses have been deeply felt.
“The Village is just tangibly much quieter, both during the day, and, of course, in the evenings. In December, we went to get pizza from The Village Bicycle at around 20:00. It was just so incredibly depressing to see Second Avenue devoid of cars and people. The atmosphere just felt heavy and sombre,” he says.
Botha, who has no plans for the future at this stage, is currently selling all of his stock, starting at R5 for B-grade movies and going up to R100 for series. The average price of DVDs on sale is R30. Botha says customers have been very supportive, “buying up loads and loads of stock”.
“A heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported us over this past decade. And thank you to everyone who has come into the shop and expressed their concern and sincere wishes,” Botha says.