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Video rental shops survive digital age: 300 still trading in Spain
By thinkSPAIN Team Tue, Aug 20, 2019
AROUND 300 video rental shops continue to trade in Spain, even now in the era of HBO and Netflix – although the owners of many of them say they do not make a living from them.
As recently as 2005, Spain had 7,000 of what it calls 'vídeoclubs' still open, but digital platforms have killed off over 95% of them.
This said, the oldest one in the country – based in Barcelona – continues in business, along with nearly 300 others.
Vídeo Instan opened in the Eixample district of Spain's second-largest city in 1979, but has had to diversify in order to stay open.
Owner Aurora Depares (pictured here in her shop) had to crowdfund a new premises last year after the rent on the building of what is now called the Vídeo Instan Café Cinema went up from €3,000 to €10,000 a month.
Major film personalities in Spain contributed to this piece of their cultural history, and the business moved to the C/ Viladomat.
Although it still rents films – on DVD rather than video – the shop set up a café and a cinema with seating for 32 spectators, and holds its own film festivals and presentations.
“The idea was to create a type of cultural club that offered things you can't get at home,” Aurora explains.
For those who still want to borrow DVDs to watch at leisure rather than using new channels, a monthly subscription of €8.50 allows them to hire as many films as they want.
And the cinema-café can be hired for €150 for private parties and events.
Madrid's oldest 'vídeoclub', Alfil, opened in 1982, just two years after VHS hire started out on the high street in Spain and at the beginning of the film-rental boom which meant the business 'worked well until piracy became rife', according to its owner Juan Manuel Sanz.
One of just 15 video rental shops still open in the Greater Madrid region, Alfil, in Alameda de Osuna, used to have over 3,000 different films on its shelves and another 3,000 to 4,000 in storage at the back of the premises.
Sanz hires them out for €3.50 each at an average of three DVDs a day, or 'at the most 100 a month'.
“Young people used to be our biggest customers, but now it tends to be the middle-aged and elderly, or children: kids' films are what we rent out the most,” says Sanz.
“We get people coming to us, in a fit of nostalgia, wanting to see a given old film they can't find anywhere else.”
He says the proceeds from renting DVDs 'don't even cover the cost of a few beers a month', but that he keeps the shop 'alive' because of his 'passion' for films and the 'loyalty' of a very reduced number of customers.
“For every 100 films I used to rent out, I now rent out about two,” Sanz reveals.
He still manages to live off running Alfil, but not through hiring out DVDs – the shop now houses a stationer's and a book store as well.
Sanz's shop is one of those which has 'survived as a symbolic feature' of a bygone era, he says, but 'there are only a handful of us about now'.
“I can't see any future for vídeoclubs – the industry has retired,” says Sanz.
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