A slice of history will be lost tomorrow, March 12, when Darlinghurst’s Film Club closes its doors to the public for the final time after 10 years. Owner Ben Kenny announced in September last year that he was seeking a buyer for Sydney’s self-proclaimed “last, best” DVD-rental store. But nobody took up the offer.

“Financially, it’s always been a challenge,” Kenny tells Broadsheet on the eve of Film Club’s closure. “We’ve always scraped by, and then I guess the last year or two just put us a little behind. We can adapt and change up to a point and then there’s a certain time when the niche we filled shrinks to a point where it’s not quite enough to sustain it.”

Since announcing its closure a month ago, Film Club has been selling off its 25,000-strong collection (everything’s currently going for $1). When Broadsheet speaks to Kenny, he says around three-quarters of the collection has been sold.

Broadsheet Access members get special tables at busy restaurants, tickets to exclusive events and discounts on food, coffee, brand offers and more.

Find out more

While Film Club remained a final holdout of the DVD and video-rental era that helped define the Friday and Saturday nights of so many who grew up from the ’70s to the noughties, it was kept alive by more than nostalgia. It was a living, thriving space frequented by a community of film-lovers seeking out titles that were hard to find online – from blockbusters to queer cinema, art house, horror, silent and classic films. Others visited to take advantage of the expertise of Kenny and his team, who mined an in-depth knowledge of film – not algorithms – to recommend movies for their customers’ viewing pleasure.

“Being the local video-store guy was always a dream of mine,” says Kenny. “And to not just run a video store, but to run the video store for this time, it’s been quite special. It’s all thanks to the Sydney film community and film fans that kept us going.”

Despite the impending closure, Kenny remains in good spirits. “I’ve always run this place on my own terms, and I feel like I’m leaving on those terms as well. Ten years ago when I started, it was always a case of, ‘Well, I’ll see how long I can make this work.’ And to have been doing it for a whole decade, it’s wildly past my best expectations. It all feels like bonus time, and now that our purpose is fulfilled, it’s time to move onto something else.”

While Kenny hasn’t made any plans yet for his post-Film Club life (“at the moment it’s all a big question mark”), he acknowledges the impact the closure will have on the community.

“People move into the area and don’t know anyone, and sometimes we’re their first stop,” he says. “So we’ve had people thanking us for making them feel welcome. It’s overwhelming. It’s unquantifiable, to think of the store’s influence. I’ve definitely gotten a sense from customers – that old cliché of, ‘Oh, you changed my life.’”

Film Club’s final day of trading will be March 12, 2022.

filmclub.com.au
@filmclubsydney