Movies n' Stuff may look like a convenient place to buy milk, but appearances can be deceiving.
Step inside, and you find one of the best places in the city to find the best cinema in the world.
Located on Kilborn Avenue in Elmvale Acres, what Movies n' Stuff lacks in size and sexiness, it makes up for with it's extensive inventory of rare imported and domestic DVDs.
“You have to be passionate about movies, and working in retail if you want to own a store like this,” says Movies n' Stuff's owner Peter Thompson. “The hours are long and the pay isn't great but I love it. I get to talk to a lot of people who have a real passion for film.”
Thompson's passion is largely self-taught. He grew up in the business, working in his parent's Movies n' Stuff video store in Craig Henry in 1984 before moving to Kilborn Avenue in 1988. Peter bought the business when his parents retired in 2017.
Thompson learned early in his retail career that if he was to succeed in the movie rental business, he had to know as much about international film as possible, and carry the movies and documentaries the competition didn't.
“A Blockbuster store was 10,000 square feet of the same movie over and over again,” Thompson says. “They would carry 150 copies of 'Jurassic Park' or 'Star Wars'. It was video rental on a massive scale. I knew I couldn't compete with them that way. I had to go a different route.”
Then, he remembers the day a Blockbuster manager visited his store.
“It was 10 years ago, and we had three Blockbuster stores in the neighbourhood breathing down my neck,” Thompson recalls. “One day, a manager came into the store and joked that he would soon be putting me out of business. A year later, Blockbuster closed all its stores and the Blockbuster manager was out of a job. I never saw him again.”
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown made streaming while isolated in a bubble a civic duty. Streaming became a new lifestyle. You could binge-watch 'Tiger King' conveniently from the safety and security of your bed.
It seemed that everyone was streaming until, one day, they realized that they were watching different versions of the same film over and over again.
So they stopped.
"If you go through Netflix catalogue, which is quite easy to do, and you think 'There's got to be more than that,' Thompson says. “So you subscribe to one streaming service after another until you realize your subscriptions are costing $150 a month because you're looking for something they don't have. We probably do.”
“There's a world outside the streaming services people want to tap into, or I wouldn't be around,” he adds. “A video store with a wide selection of films is as out of date as a vinyl record store. It depends on what you stock in your store. If you have 5,000 copies of 'Die Hard' or 'Jurassic Park', then you're out of date, but if you have vintage films from the 40s, 50s, 60s, new foreign films or unusual content you can turn people on to, you'll do well.”
Not surprisingly, much of Thompson's life experience revolves around film. As a young man, he hoped to become a filmmaker one day.
“Quentin Tarantino's 'Pulp Fiction' changed my life,” he says. “I thought 'That's something I would love to do.'”
Alas, Hollywood never did call him with an offer he couldn't refuse. So, he's channelled his creative energy into the store, researching and writing about film on the store's website www.moviesnstuff.com and recommending film to customers. In his spare time, he writes screenplays, storyboards ideas with film pals.
“The truth is I'm a retail guy through and through.”
Lately, he's been recommending two French films, 'The Vinland Club' from Québec (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob_HU3BvEkY) and from France, 'Delicious', a comedy about a chef. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob_HU3BvEkY).
“Watching movies is about having an emotional experience,” Thompson states flatly. “I want my customers to have an emotional experience in my store. There are reasons why there are still big video stores still running in big cities. People love movies.”