Cinema in Toronto has experienced a resurgence in the last few years with the opening of the Tiff Bell Lightbox, the newly opened Bloor Hot Docs Cinema and the ever increasing crowds attending Toronto’s many film festivals.
However, in the last year we have seena number of video store chains, most notably Blockbuster and Rogers Video, close as they succumb to online competition. With the major chains now out of the game this is a real opportunity for the independent players to save the industry and demonstrate what a good video store can be.
I plan on visiting as many of these stores as I can and speak to the owners to find out what makes them unique and how they plan to thrive in the age of Amazon and Netflix. As well, I want to show that a video store can add to a city's collective culture just as much as any opera house or library.
Suspect Video & Culture
Luis Ceriz opened Suspect Video & Culture in 1991 as the “anti-blockbuster” by stocking one copy of a lot of titles (over 32,000 at last count), rather than multiple copies of just a handful of films. Specializing in rare and unreleased films with a strong focus on horror along with an eclectic mix of film-related magazines, books and toys, Luis really wanted this place to be a “clubhouse for eclectic movie fans”. In 1998 Suspect opened its second location at 619 Queen Street West that was sadly destroyed by fire in 2008. Starting over again wasn’t really an option as the collection of movies was nearly impossible to reacquire and the golden age of home video rental was well over.
After 21 years in business Luis knows the industry and has certainly seen a shift in business. In the future you will see much more of the store dedicated to sales as the demand for rentals declines. As well, Suspect has become a destination for film fans from all over so sales is certainly the growth market as it would be hard to return your rental in seven days if you are from out of town.
At first glance this store might be a little intimidating as thousands of films stare down from the walls at you, many with unfamiliar titles. This may scare off the less adventurous film viewer but those with the force of will to plunge headlong into this unique catalogue will find a multitude of hidden gems, forgotten classics, and the arcane. With such a collection some people might think Suspect is also a home for film snobbery yet nothing could be further from the truth. On the new release wall you will find not only the latest rerelease of that 1970’s exploitation flick you can’t find anywhere else but right next to it might be the latest commercial film that had a catering budget higher than the entire budget of that exploitation favourite. Even if the specialty of the store is the rare, films of all types have a place here and if you can’t find what you are after just ask one of the helpful and extremely knowledgeable staff members.
Luis (owners) recommendation:
Troll Hunter (2010)
Director: Andre Ovredal Starring: Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg & Knut Naerum
Synopsis: After some bears are found dead around Norway, three University students decide to investigate and film their adventure. They follow a suspected poacher named Hans to catch him in the act and discover a much bigger secret. Hans isn’t hunting bears he is hunting Trolls, a few of whom have broken out of their sanctioned territory and have to be disposed of which all unravels a whole government conspiracy.
God Bless America (2011)
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait Starring: Joel Murray & Tara Lynne Barr
See my review from TIFF 2011 here:
Rental Cost: $3.50 7 day rental / $4.50 2 day rental (new release)
Suspect Video & Culture
605 Markham Street
Open everyday 12:03pm – 10:58pm @suspectvideo
Written by Jason Poynton
Jason works on his feet all day, so when he gets some downtime his greatest joy is to settle in at a movie theatre and see a couple movies back-to-back, or in the the case of film festival season race around the city and see four or five in a day. Of course after the movies it’s time to eat and drink and talk it out with some friends.