Inside the Wirral movie rental shop that’s got more films than Amazon and Netflix combined
1 week ago
The explosion of on-demand streaming services spelled the end for the vast majority of movie rental stores.
But not for Snips Movies in Bebington.
One of the latest remaining in the UK, it didn’t only manage to survive, it’s just seen one of its biggest years to date as a new generation discovers the joys of physical DVDs and Blu Rays.
And with more than 15,000 titles crammed onto the shelves, owner Dave Wain says it isn’t just giving streaming platforms a run for their money, it actually has more to offer than the main ones put together!
“I’ve got 15,500 films and I think that’s more than Amazon, Netflix, Disney, Apple and Paramount combined, and they’re all in one place and there’s no contract. You can come in once or twice a year or every single week as some people do.
“The vast majority of my customers now are aged 18 to 35 and it can so prohibitive for them to have to sign up to all these streaming services. The commitment of having to pay a monthly fee when you might not even watch something that month is just crazy.”
Instead, Dave’s growing customer base pays a top price of £2.50 or three-for-£5 – kids’ films are £1 each – to take their pick from his lovingly curated collection, ranging from obscure 1960s and 1970s independents to the latest huge box office hits like Barbie and Oppenheimer.
Unlike the old days, there are no strict rules around rental periods, and no late fees. “It’s entirely up to customers when they bring a film back and 99% of people bring them back within one, two or three days maximum. There’s no pressure but they just realise it’s your business so you need that turnover of films.”
Most people arrive with an idea of what film they’d like, or at least what director, others take their time and appreciate being able to browse.
“Normally customers are focused on where they’re going with their film watching, other people just hang around and see what catches their eye,” explains Dave.
“A lot of my younger customers have listened to podcasts and got inspiration from those and drawn up a list of maybe 20 films they want to watch, but then they walk out with something completely different.
“I have sections divided into specific directors so they might work their way through the whole of Martin Scorsese or Stanley Kubrick’s filmography, or find other films by a director they’ve seen once and enjoyed.
“We’re anti-algorithm, we don’t tell you what to watch, you can go anywhere you want and find something you think looks exciting.”
Dave has been sharing his passion for film with customers since he took over running Snips Movies on Cross Lane 21 years ago.
His dad had gone into the film rental business almost by chance after opening a ladies clothing shop in the mid-70s.
“He had that for 19 years but by mid-90s things were starting to die off a bit with the rise of supermarkets selling clothing and bigger high street chains. Coincidentally the shop next door was a video butcher, he rented films and sold cuts of meat which was really quite odd but remembered very fondly in Bebington.
“When he retired in 1995 my dad decided to have a change and he bought his stock of 200 videos. I was finishing school, went to university, ended up working for Blockbuster, and in 2003 when my dad was going to retire I came to work here.
“My dad told me I could do whatever I wanted so I started curating more and more films, more sections, more niche avenues, to create a cinephile’s rental store.”
When the streaming giants launched, 46-year-old Dave held his nerve and having another side to the shop – a successful greetings card business – meant he never had to rely solely on movies.
It allowed him to ride out the storm of a steep initial drop-off, tweak stock to include an upturn in small label Blu Rays sought after by collectors, and keep going strong. Last year he was the best in terms of new members and revenue in almost a decade, he says.
Although the shop is already floor-to-ceiling with films, and it’s hard to imagine fitting any more in, Dave’s already been busy this year building new fixtures with an eye on expanding. His goal is to exceed 19,000 and overtake one of the few other remaining rental stores, 20th Century Flicks in Bristol, as the most well-stocked in the country,
Even with new arrivals, no titles will be sacrificed. “A lot of the first generation DVDs from 2000-2002 are impossible to replace, so it would be like getting rid of paintings because an art gallery didn’t have the space for them. You couldn’t do that, they’d need to be stored somewhere.”
As for his own favourite movie, the question he’s most asked, that’s an ever-changing answer.
“A lot of people come in and say, ‘this is great because it takes me back …’ and I understand that but for me, it’s more about today’s films than thinking back to what was amazing. I hope my favourite film of all time is the one I’ll see tomorrow.”