As Speedy Video’s flagship store shutters, is this the death knell for film collectors, local industry?

Radzi Razak
A general view of Speedy Video at Mid Valley Megamall September 10, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — Since 1989, Speedy Video Distributors Sdn Bhd has been at the forefront of the local entertainment scene, with sole rights to home releases from major Hollywood studios such as Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox through its 92 stores.

Ten years after it started out, Speedy opened its flagship store in what was then the newest, biggest and swankiest shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, the Mid Valley Megamall.

But 10 years later, that store closed for good last Sunday, as the chain’s sales struggled — leaving around 20 outlets in other states.

The store, however, brought undeniably joy to many Malaysians, especially KL-ites, as online users posted their memories of and experiences with the chain, after Twiter @putraadibadham tweeted about the store’s closure earlier this month.

Malay Mail visited the store a few days before it closed down, and the chain’s former retail manager Irene Hew, 52, and her best friend, the branch’s supervisor Bridget Yeow, 54, teared up seeing the tributes on social media.

Hew, who has since left the industry, also told of how business was booming back in the early 90s.

“We had more than 80,000 titles. And as Mid Valley is in the middle of places like Bangsar, Petaling Jaya and Seputeh, we had a lot of people coming in,” she related to Malay Mail, smiling.

Hew, who joined Speedy in 1993, said movie lovers were not afraid to splurge on home videos as they preferred to watch them with family and friends.

“People like to watch movies. Especially those who have families and cannot make it to the cinema.

“They bought VHS tapes by the bucketloads, they didn’t even care about the price and promotions,” she said.

Former Speedy Video retail manager Irene Hew speaks to Malay Mail during an interview September 10, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

However, business started going downhill after 2010 with the growing availability of high speed broadband, satellite TV, as well as streaming websites that saw more and more people turning to their computer screens instead.

In comparison, Hew said Speedy had even managed to survive the heyday of pirated VCDs in the early 2000s.

She said as the sales of CDs, VCDs and DVDs plunged, the store started to sell other merchandise such as action figures, toys and small ornaments — a fact that became more obvious to customers.

Meanwhile, Yeow said she would miss recommending movies to customers.

“I enjoyed talking to people. I would talk to customers about the new movies and explain new releases to them. I would give them something they would always enjoy.

“Of course I am sad that this is the end of Speedy here. Where will the customers go? Where can I talk about movies with them? I would miss them the most,” she told Malay Mail.

“Of course we always want to be here forever but this is the reality, we have to face it,” she said, adding that customers can still patronise other branches in malls such as 1Utama Shopping Centre and Subang Parade.

Customers are pictured perusing CDs at Speedy Video Mid Valley Megamall September 10, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Malaysia’s film industry faces collateral damage

The closure is a damning indicator of how the internet, through streaming and downloading platforms, has affected physical audio visual sales, and nostalgia can do little to stall the inevitable.

Customer Muhammad Farhan Azhari told Malay Mail that the closure is another blow to movie buffs in the country, especially those who collect physical versions of films, such as DVDs.

“We like our movies to have a physical form, something that we can hold on to and display.

“However, the collector numbers have been down for years and it is definitely easier now to just stream and store the movies from cloud, “ he said, referring to the internet.

Another film fan, Fakrul Rahim, said the rising cost of living makes things like buying physical copies of music and films more of a nuisance.

“For example, your phone can now access and store unlimited movies that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere. You just need Wi-Fi.

“You don’t need to have a TV, DVD player, cabinet to store the DVDs, enough room in your house to enjoy them in,” he said.

Heavily discounted CDs are pictured at Speedy Video Mid Valley Megamall September 10, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Film critic Aidil Rusli also paid tribute to Speedy Video in his Malay Mail column, expressing his concern over the demise of physical media.

“At first, us physical media collectors rejoiced at the endless sales and discounts on offer, from buy seven for RM35 for DVDs to buy two for RM55 for Blu-rays and even RM10 per Blu-ray for certain titles.

“We rejoiced because we could still buy physical media, even if there were fewer and fewer outlets selling them, because it meant that they’re still being made, at least the ones for the local market,” he wrote.

However, he also expressed fear that with the closure of Speedy Video, local films, which were also previously distributed via the company will be harder to find.

“What bugs me the most about Speedy’s closure is that I probably won’t be able to buy Malaysian films on physical media anymore now that the main outlets selling them are gone, which will also mean that they simply won’t be made anymore,” he said.