The owner of what is thought to be London’s last video rental shop has told customers ‘That’s all, folks’, after two car crashes, a pandemic and the rise of streaming and piracy led to its final curtain call.
Gulam Charania opened For Your Eyes Only 25 years ago in 1998, inspired by his passion for cinema.
The store, in Forest Hill, south London, became a ‘community hub’ which outlived Blockbuster by more than a decade.
Boasting a selection of 11,000 DVDs, Blu-Rays and video games, the shop attracted star clientele including actor Stephen Graham, who once lived close by, together with Full Monty star Hugo Speer and Happy Valley’s Con O’Neill.
But the shop is closing its doors for the final time today, as Mr Charania lamented the ‘end of an era’.
The father-of-two and grandfather-of-four said: ‘This store was a community hub.
‘I’ve had a few people coming in really, really upset that we’re closing.
‘All the families used to come in, it was brilliant.
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‘Now, far fewer people have DVD players. But what happens if your internet goes? You’re stuffed.
‘Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights people would queue out the door. It would be heaving.
‘Now I see kids ask their mums when they go past, ‘What’s a DVD shop?’. They don’t know.’
A series of unfortunate events saw the final credits roll at the store – including a Hollywood movie style car crash which decimated the shop front, forcing it to close for months.
Trade rose 80% before the pandemic but slumped after the nation went into lockdown.
The rise of piracy and online streaming proved to be the final nail in the coffin for the rental store.
Revealing his sadness over the store closure, Mr Charania said: ‘I’m holding it together, but I am going through a sort of depression.
‘I have had some great times here and got to know lots of people.
‘Now I am going to have to find a job.’
A crowdfund set up by supporters raised £2,300, which helped to pay the bills for a few months.
However, the dwindling customer base meant the writing was on the wall for the shop.
One customer, Margherita D’Angelo, who is in her fifties, said the closure was ‘really sad’.
But she added: ‘I think it’s an age thing. I just moved house and brought my DVD player with me.
‘There are some things you can’t get on streaming platforms.
‘But I’m surprised [the shop] has lasted this long.’
Another customer, James Blimsa, who grew up in Forest Hill, was delighted to see the store still open when he returned to the area three years ago.
The 37-year-old, who now lives in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, said: ‘I couldn’t believe it was still there. It was the same guy who owned it when I was a kid.
‘I have fantastic memories… It was a reason for friends to get together.
‘As we got older going up to 16 and 17, obviously everyone has their own lives but it was still a thing to rent a DVD and all get together and watch it – that doesn’t exist anymore with Netflix.
‘I didn’t want to say to him that I don’t even own a DVD player anymore because times have moved on.
‘Even when I was explaining it to my 12-year-old son, he said how amazing it sounded.
‘It is something that the new generation will unfortunately never understand.’
Mr Charania added he hopes DVDs may ride a wave of nostalgia and make a comeback in future, much like vinyl records have.
‘You never know,’ he said.
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