film buff roncesvalles

Film Buff to close as video stores struggle in Toronto

For years, The Film Buff has been delivering its massive catalogue of videos to Toronto movie lovers. In August 2014, it shut down its Leslieville location. And, after its lease expires this December, The Film Buff will close its doors on Roncesvalles for good.

"We had a fabulous, nearly two decade run and now it's time to kick back and not work seven days a week, 364 days a year," says owner Scott Worsley.

Worsley says he's retiring. However, he also knows that the way audiences interact with filmic media has changed. Many viewers prefer instantaneous entertainment over cinema. "The economic model of a typical art house video store doesn't work anymore," he says.

The Film Buff won't completely disappear though. For the past few years, Worsley has been putting parts of his catalogue on Amazon. He plans to continue selling online in some fashion even after his bricks-and-mortar store closes.

Outside of this, some of his titles have gone on to find homes at libraries and universities. "They're moving into public institutions, which is a good thing, I think," Worsley says.

If you want to add to your own collection, starting October 17, Film Buff will hold genre-specific sales, for select items, each week until it shutters on December 20. And the store will continue offering rentals in the interim.

Other video stores are also finding the current climate challenging. Just over a year ago, Queen Video closed its College Street location.

"Our customer base has shrunk," says owner Howie Levman. He currently has two locations left: one in the Annex and the other at Queen and Spadina. "I think the young people are used to getting their music, their books and their films for free. That's why it's a challenge, our customer base is smaller," he continues.

He notes that his current demographic skews between the ages of 35 and 70. As for cost, it'll set a renter back only $3.32 to take a movie for one week. While a monthly Netflix subscription is just a bit more than double that, Levman thinks it's sometimes worth it to spend a little more for the in-store experience.

"There's a lot of great product that ends up on a video store shelf that a lot of people would never know to watch unless they walked onto a video store and spoke to a video store clerk," he says. Online algorithms can only go so far.

"There's nothing that compares to a good video store person," he continues. "We are able to keep customers because of our recommendations."

Do you still frequent Toronto video stores? Let us know in the comments.


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