If you stand at the door of Videon, the DVD and video library in Dominion Rd, you can see the two buildings where their competitors lived and died.
Big stores they were, with multinational muscle behind them. But these days, head offices are considering whether the video library has had its day.
In the 1960s, our first TV decade, cinema admissions plummeted by about 70 per cent. Later, home video made matters worse: these days, 4.5 million of us buy about half as many movie tickets as 1.5 million bought in 1940.
For both forms of movie-watching, the modern threat is online piracy. If a video store closed in your neighbourhood this year, chances are that was why. Yet at Videon, they're hardly feeling the impact. The privately owned store near the Valley Rd lights seemed in rude good health when I dropped in there.
Videon's 30,000-plus titles include films that no one else will have (and indeed ones that can't be obtained any other way). The breadth of the collection (which does include new-release blockbusters as well) means that it's the place Aucklanders go for the outre and the hard-to-find. Its nearest competition is Alice in Wonderland in Christchurch, though Wellington's Aro Video comes close.
It's an old-fashioned sort of place: it has a membership fee ($10, unchanged since day one), which was once standard practice in the business. It helps them pay for obscure titles, some of which may have to be expensively classified. And you sign a printed receipt when you take out your movies, which helps identify the borrower when accounts are held by whole flats.
Duncan Rennie (who's sort of the manager but says they're all in charge) told me that Videon opened in 1982, the same year he arrived from Scotland and began working for one of the big stores.
"But I always wanted to work here," he said. "It's the pinnacle of the business. It's the atmosphere, really. Everybody is sharing their love of movies. The staff are really into it. If you want to research something, they'll look it up for you."
That can mean trying to work out what a movie is from a snatch of dialogue or a description of a scene - and remaining composed as the suspicion hardens that the customer's describing a dream.
Videon has always been synonymous with arthouse titles, but the staff there like to speak of "specific tastes".
"We have blockbusters," Rennie says, "but we also have the Sharknado-type titles, which are real cult favourites."
Still, staff member Antonio Parsons, whose extravagant tatts and bowler hat seem made for each other, explains that the festival programme is "our buying guide". "A lot of people have missed a certain title in the festival and they come here for a catch-up."
Videon started life further down Dominion Rd, in the Balmoral shops, and moved to the present site four years ago. It's more central, more residential and there's more foot traffic, Rennie says, which may explain why business remains brisk.
Big stores' price wars - two-for-one deals, $1 Tuesdays and the like, are "not sustainable", he says. "I know, because I used to work for them. They have to buy [from distributors] certain things in certain numbers. I just go through what's available and pick and choose what customers want."
Needless to say, these boys watch a pile of movies. The night before we spoke, Rennie had watched the eight-part first season of the Treasure Island prequel Black Sails. Was that typical, I asked.
"Only on the days I work," he says. "I work six days a week. I play games on the other day." I'm picking he doesn't mean squash or rounders.
You don't even have to look at the movie selection to know you're in serious film-buff territory here. In lieu of glossy posters, the walls are lined with painted canvases of scenes from favourite films: Shaun of the Dead, The Big Lebowski, Ghostbusters. All the Doctors Who are lined up.
The $350-$450 canvases, which sell well at this time of the year, are true collaborations between Rennie and Parsons. Says the former: "He paints over my stuff and I paint over his until we're happy with it."
And the staff are breathing encyclopaedic reference services. Tim Beatson is the go-to man for horror, comedy and animation, but "all of us have overlapping specialities", says Parsons. "I liken it to being a London taxi driver. You have to have the Knowledge."