When I set out to write this series I wanted to capture what I love about independent video stores before they disappear forever. I expected to find a group of small business owners who, although they continue to be passionate about movies are having to suffer through their business's–and passion's–decline. However, what I have discovered is a group of people who recognize that their industry is all but finished, but still feel that what they are doing has a place, all the while doing a brisk business.
Co-owner of the Film Buff, Scott Worsley is the perfect example of this since he loves movies–of course–but his real passion is talking to his customers and introducing them to movies. In fact, my "brief" interview with him ended up lasting over 90 minutes. To me this is why video stores are still important; for this sense of camaraderie and community with fellow movie buffs.
In Scott's words: "Customers and staff are regularly the source for the discovery of great cinema. The communication between our customers and our staff and ourselves is paramount to our operation."
The first Film Buff opened on Roncesvalles in 1998 after an off-the-cuff remark became a reality. Scott and his wife Donna had been frequenting their local video store, that was dedicated mostly to Polish cinema and remarked to the owner if they ever wanted to sell they should let him know. Apparently, they did, and the Film Buff was born. Unlike a store like Suspect the Film Buff was opened to be a neighbourhood spot to service the local community so rentals are their focus, not selling DVD’s or film-related paraphernalia. According to Scott the Film Buff’s mission was “assembling and making available a collection of films of merit” and that holds true to this day. The Queen East location opened in 2005 after Scott and Donna noticed a lack of a neighbourhood video store.
The Film Buff (East) is a welcoming spot with a very local feel, when you walk in the first thing you notice is the ice cream counter, so as you browse the thousands of titles you can have a cone and a coffee. In fact they actually sell a surprising amount of ice cream: around 40,000 litres a year between the two stores. The store is bright and welcoming there is no sign of pretension, this is no dark pit frequented only by film nerds. The movies–over 10,000 titles at this location (Roncesvalles has over 30,000)–line the walls so they are very easy to browse. The problem with any video store that carries more than new releases is where to start, the Film Buff has an answer for this as well. They have a great program where you pay $30.00 a month and you can rent as many as possible and have three out a time. This is a great way to plough through a deep catalogue and you won’t have to wander the store endlessly looking for that one rental to satisfy all.
A video store like this that has built such an impressive library of films in all genres and decades will be the last to survive. They already own this library and only need to buy a few new releases a week instead of the old model where you would have to buy dozens of copies of each new release because that’s what most people wanted. In this climate people don’t go to The Film Buff to rent the Avengers they want a carefully curated collection of titles they may have missed in the past few years or classics from before they were born. This is why this store survives and Blockbusters are all gone.
Directed by: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Aksel Hennie, Synnove Macody Lund and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Synopsis: Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) has a beautiful wife but due to his short stature he constantly feels like he must give her the best of everything. Due to the restraints of his job as a corporate head-hunter he is not financially equipped to always deliver, so he must supplement his income as a high-end art thief. It all starts to fall apart when he decides to go after the wrong man who not only has a one of kind masterpiece but is also moving in on his wife.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
Directed by: Russ Meyer
Starring: Tura Satana, Haji and Lori Williams
Synopsis: Probably the best of the Russ Meyer sexploitation flicks finds three go-go dancers out on a rampage looking for “the long green”. Rosie, Varla and Billie racing their cars through the desert first encounter a young man and his girl and after killing him and kidnapping her they are back on the road. Only to run into an old man who according to local legend has a fortune buried on his property thinking they have found an easy mark they move in on him and his sons only to find the old man has his own ideas.
Rental Costs: DVD – $3.89; Blu-Ray – $4.05; and complete TV series – $5.95 to $7.95.
Film Buff West
73 Roncesvalles Avenue
Toronto, ON M6R 2K6
Film Buff East
1380 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON M4L 1C9
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.