They say two is better than one. For The Film Buff that is very true. Whether you frequent the Roncesvalles area or near Leslieville you will find a Film Buff location to satisfy your cinematic needs. I spoke with the owner of these sister stores, now fixtures in their communities to get the whole story.
The Film Buff can be found at 73 Roncesvalles Avenue north of Queen and Roncesvalles. Bright and welcoming with videos immaculately lining the shelves, the care and organization of the collection is a reflection of owner Scott Worsley’s love of film, who opened The Film Buff in 1998 with his wife Donna. A former engineer, Worsley realized that the five video stores in the area were all Polish rental stores catering to the Polish community. So they gathered 4,500 VHS tapes and opened The Film Buff. “We have always been home video fans,” Worsley says. “We grew successfully in the first five years, more than we thought,” he recalls with amusement. So in 2005 they decided to open a new location in the other end of town and The Film Buff east was born. The store is nuzzled just east of Greenwood on Queen east in a part of town that is not quite Leslieville and not quite the Beaches affectionately referred to by Film Buff crew as “The Leech.” Worsley admits that each store, “Has it’s own vibe.”
To rent from The Film Buff’s impressive 30,000 titles you need only present photo identification. Two night rentals of new arrivals costs $4.50, as do week long rentals of older films. Family films are $3.50 and box sets will run anywhere from $5.95 to $8.95. Blu-ray rentals are $4.95. If you rent 4 movies for a week you get 12.5% off and five or more is 20% off. Do the math on that dear readers!
What is popular at the Film Buff? “We are more of a family store,” Worsley reveals. “Lots of kids movies, it’s that kind of neighbourhood,” He says of Roncesvalles. As for the adults, “ Winter’s Bone . We just couldn’t keep it on the shelf.” Documentaries are also popular, as are Woody Allen films. “It is a very Woody Allen neighbourhood.” “The east end store sees more Horror, Euro Sleaze. It is slightly more esoteric.” Worsley muses. Popular titles in both stores are the kinds of films that don’t start off strong in theaters but hit their stride later, like The King’s Speech .
The Inside Scoop
Scoop is the appropriate word. The Film Buff is not only one of Toronto’s premier video stores it is also one of the city’s most popular ice cream shops. “The Ice cream does very well for us,” Worsley admits. A couple of other stores in the city have even followed suit.
The Film Buff also creates a magazine twice a year. “Notes From the Slightly Below Grade” which is named after the few stairs that lead down into their west end store. It is a film-centric treat for fans by fans, past issues of which can be found on The Film Buff’s web site (www.thefilmbuff.com). The site is part blog, part catalouge allowing renters to chat and comment as they peruse The Film Buff’s archive on-line.
What does The Film Buff have on the shelves for the local film fan? “We kind of do everything,” Worsley says. Classic films and Noir are his personal favorites and they have thousands of each. Films of merit is the guideline for The Film Buff. “We are kind of an archivist of sorts.” If there is something that you just cannot find anywhere else ask and The Film Buff staff may be able to get what you need. Television is also a major part of The Film Buff’s repertoire. It accounts for 30% of their business and boasts the largest collection in the city featuring the Swedish Wallander series and HBO’s Mad Men .
Why Choose to Get Off the Couch
Does Worsley think the internet has changed the video store? “The internet is changing society fundamentally as a whole, video stores, book stores, even talking in the park.” Worsley sees it as a challenge, “We have really had to sharpen our pencils. You can’t rest on our laurels.”
“The chasm of film as entertainment and film as art form is widening,” Worsley observes. Smaller independent films are the video store’s bread and butter but, “We have to have our feet in both camps. You need to have both to survive.” The most interesting films hit the middle ground such as the Australian films The Square and Animal Kingdom . Worsley is excited by the vibrant video scene in Toronto and is proud to present these films to film lovers, “It makes it all worth doing.”
The Film Buff’s two locations offer a selection of Staff Favorites, switching up the selection throughout the year based on events throughout the city. Currently they are featuring documentaries to coincide with the Hot Docs Festival.
So, what are Worsley’s favorite films? “My top ten has had several hundred titles,” he bemoans. “ The Third Man and Kiss Me Deadly are both fabulous noir films.” He confesses he has no love for main stream film anymore preferring, “Films that are slightly off the radar.” Yet, the magic of finding that never before seen film hasn’t left him, Worsley is still amazed by the ability of the clientele and the staff to bring new films to his attention.
The Film Buff is a fitting name since the owners are just that, film buffs, and it shows. The Film Buff embodies everything the Toronto independent video store scene is about, a love of film, community and doing it your own way. Oh, and ice cream. Lets not forget the ice cream.
The Place: The Film Buff
Find It At: The Film Buff West – 73 Roncesvalles Avenue; The Film Buff East – 1380 Queen Street East
Call “˜Em: West – 416-534-7078; East- 416-465-4324
On the Web: www.thefilmbuff.com
Size of Selection: 30, 000
Needed to Rent: Photo ID
Cost to Rent: Two-night new releases and seven-night regular collection $4.50. Family films $3.50. Box sets from $5.95 to $8.95. Blu-ray rentals are $4.95. Weekly discounts are: 4 movies for a week you get 12.5% off 5 or more movies you get 20% off.