herald

Saturday 19 August 2017

Seeing the credits roll for Laser is closing the door on a part of Dublin culture

Well, what another great victory for progress and the internet. Yesterday it was announced that the last outlet of Laser film store on Dublin's George's Street is to close its doors in the coming fortnight, dealing yet another blow to the capital's cultural health.

The branch around the corner in Andrew Street pulled down shutters over a year ago, and with the one in Ranelagh also gone, the city has now lost a company whose commitment to cinema was always worn with its heart on its sleeve.

Certainly Laser stocked current releases, but the essence of its appeal lay in the breadth of the range of DVDs offered.

UPSET

It was sad to walk in yesterday afternoon to see a clearly upset staff having to deal with a closing down sale to a soundtrack of ominous, brooding music.

That the music happened to be from David Lynch's Eraserhead was, of course, a typically knowing nod on the part of the soon-to-be-unemployed people behind the counter, but equally apparent was the genuine surprise on the part of regular customers that a part of their lives was about to disappear.

One could also sense that people actually felt guilty about the fact that they were getting an armful of DVDs at a knockdown price because what the hell is that worth if the shop you frequent is going under? Manager Peter Dunne wasn't pulling any punches, nor did he sound like he was moaning either when he quite simply put Laser's inability to continue trading down to the internet and the culture of entitlement it's spawned.

That an entire generation now think it's perfectly fine to steal music and movies and to hell with the consequences is sad enough in itself, but they rarely think of the consequences.

You'll frequently hear the rubbish argument that Tom Cruise/Angelina Jolie or whoever has plenty of money so how is robbing one of their movies going to hurt them? But that's just nonsense.

The trickle-down effect of bootlegging and illegal downloading hits money put into non-blockbuster productions, the livelihoods of people who work in cinemas and, ultimately, stores like Laser.

Another aspect which can't be grasped by those sitting at home pirating films is just how much a shop like Laser, and indeed the long-gone Metropolis in Baggot Street, acted as a focus for like-minded souls.

As was the case with record shops in the past (and there are still a few good 'uns around), these were places where engaging with staff who knew their stuff made browsing a frequently unexpected pleasure.

Many's the time you'd go in looking for one specific item only to emerge with three completely different ones thanks to a random discovery or the kind of 'If you like that you might like this' chat you get to have with an actual human being to interact with.

There was something very poignant about wandering around Laser yesterday looking at the headings of Middle Eastern, Documentary, French, German, Korean, Indian, Italian, Japanese and Trash. All a very long way from the days when your local video shop would have 'foreign' films in a corner.

Another good one gone.

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