THE future of video entertainment in Toowoomba lies in vending machines and not store fronts.
Franchise Entertainment Group managing director Paul Uniacke whose company owns the Australian franchise rights to Blockbuster and Video Ezy said rising real estate rental costs had meant the focus had moved to kiosks (vending machines).
Two Blockbuster stores have closed in Toowoomba in the past three months putting 15 people out of work.
Mr Uniacke said a number of factors combined to make it difficult for bricks and mortar stores to be profitable.
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"There is no exponential growth in stores," Mr Uniacke said.
"We have been rationalising stores since 1998, so this is not a new thing.
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"One of the biggest killers is penalty rates as our biggest trading days are on a weekend.
"Currently there are 570 kiosks nation-wide. We are aiming at increasing that to 5000."
Mr Uniacke said Toowoomba had been a strong market for Blockbuster thanks to the work of franchisee Kirk Penfold. But he said the running costs of operating five stores had proved too much.
"Kirk has owned the Toowoomba Blockbuster franchises for some years and has been a very good operator," he said.
"Five stores was a lot for Toowoomba and the running costs continued to climb.
"It is just a part of the store rationalisation we have been doing as a company for some time."
Blockbuster closed its Wyalla store last month. The Wilsonton store closed in March.
Currently the company employs 25 staff in Toowoomba across its three remaining stores at Westridge, Herries St and High St.
Australia's Digital Futures Institute executive director Professor Mike Keppell said he was not surprised about the move away from video stores.
"The way Australians consume entertainment has changed," Prof Keppell said.
"The availability of online content has seen attitudes change towards more instant gratification.
"Instead of planning to go and get a movie from the store, people can simply access a wide range of content online through a variety of devices."
While Mr Uniacke agreed that the Internet played an important role in entertainment today, he believed it still had some way to go.
"The act of going and renting a movie is still active in the psyche of most Australians," he said.
For Toowoomba's Chloe and Cory Zeidler hiring movies from their local store was the only option.
"About once a month we come and get a new release. It's so easy," Mrs Zeidler said.
"For me it is the convenience of being able to pick up a heap of movies and being able to drop them back in on my way to work."
What has changed?
- Rise of online downloading.
- Availability of quality content on free-to-air TV
- Focus on shorter content like YouTube.
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