It’s Pride Week here in Toronto, so I set my sights on Church and Wellesley and the favorite video store in the Village, 7-24 Movies and More. Don’t let the dated, vaguely x-rated movie house exterior fool you, this is one of the finest selections of films anywhere in the city. Emily, one of the exemplary employees of 7-24, was kind enough to meet with me for a guided tour of the store that definitely should not be judged by its exterior.
The history of 7-24 Movies and More is murky at best. No one knows exactly when it originally opened and best guesses say it has been at it’s current location for roughly 20 years. When the current owners bought the store there had been more than one owner before them. One of the employees, who has been there for 13 years, says the store hasn’t changed a bit. What is known is that 7-24 used to be a chain of stores, but it failed to achieve Blockbuster status. In fact, there are two other 7-24 video stores in the city, but neither are officially affiliated with this store. 24-7 is fiercely loyal to their community and boasts a huge selection of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered themed films. 7-24 also carries a ‘pornacopia’ of adult films, discretely displayed in its own section, away from younger eyes. While many shops are moving away from renting adult films, 7-24 has kept their collection going strong, “You have to be a little bit sexy to be on Church Street, it’s just the rules of the neighborhood,” Emily says.
To rent requires a credit card and picture identification. This allows you access to their selection of 50,000 titles, which includes the adult section. The cost for renting is always $4. New releases rent for 24 hours, ‘new-ish’ releases rent for 48 hours and the rest of the store’s catalogue rents for a week. Box sets are rented based on the content, one disk at a time or two depending on their running time. 7-24 has a massive collection of Blu-ray movies all of which rent for $4.50. Don’t forget to peruse their selection of films for sale, both new and previously viewed.
Emily walked me through the store and showed off their impressive list of genres such as Shakespeare, Blacksploitation, shock cinema, sleaze cinema, cult horror, animated films, Chinese cinema, foreign films, classic TV, gay and lesbian films (including foreign films in this genre), a huge Criterion selection and of course the adult section. Even with such a broad selection, one film goes out more than any other, “Two or three times a day I rent The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert ,” Emily reveals, “We also rent frequently based on who has died.” This pattern of morbid selection is so frequent that they used to have an R.I.P section.
“If there is one movie that I think everybody should see, everybody in the entire world, it is called Heaven ,” Emily says. A documentary from the 1970s by Diane Keaton comprised of interviews with L.A.’s stranger characters discussing what they think heaven is like cut together with clips of Hollywood representations of the pearly gates.
Though the store is right at Church and Wellesley, 7-24 doesn’t just get LGBT customers; Ryerson students, Cabbagetown renters, St. Jamestown renters, even renters as far away as Scarborough frequent the store. Emily attributes this to 7-24’s excellent selection. What sets 7-24 apart from other stores in Emily’s opinion? “The selection is the biggest asset, but the selection is nothing without the staff. We all know our stuff.” Staff frequently go out of their way to make sure you are renting something that is perfect for you. “That is what makes 7-24 what it is.”
As the rental market dwindles, community video stores have had to branch out into other services. I was surprised to find that 7-24 is strictly dedicated to film. “The name is a total lie,” Emily admits, “7-24 Movies and More — we’re actually not open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. We’re only open “˜till midnight. And, Movies and More, there is no more, there’s only movies.”
What does 7-24 have that no one else have? “Selection and a sassy attitude,” Emily jokes. But in all seriousness, the selection at 7-24 is astounding. They carry hard to get BBC television, all of the Criterion Collection, a fabulous documentary section, offering both film and television documentaries, as well as gay and lesbian world cinema. “Foreign films with a gay and lesbian bent; you are not going to get that anywhere else.” Emily admits that the customers at 7-24 have good taste and when she’s deciding what to take home at the end of the night she often looks to the returns to find her own hidden gem.
Why Get Off the Couch
What does Emily think about the current trend of illegal downloading and internet movies on demand? “There is no recovering the Pandora’s Box of free information and free media,” she says. Emily does believe that the internet cannot offer the same kind of browsing experience you get from venturing into your local video store. “Talking to the people who work here and saying, I like this, this and this. What else might I like? And we will know because a human has the kind of intuition and emotional intelligence that a computer doesn’t.”
Each of the employees at 7-24 has embraced their own area of cinema and the ‘staff favorites’ wall reflects that, ranging from Dark City to Follow That Bird . Most of the picks have notes on the cover of the DVD explaining why it has been raised to such an esteemed level by the staff. Though Emily calls Blade Runner “the greatest film ever made”, she says that renters should also watch The Fall , the animated films Mary and Max, Fantastic Planet and The Last Unicorn. According to her, “There is no day where you shouldn’t watch The Last Unicorn.”
When you think about the fascinating, quirky, neighborhood-centric world of independent video stores 7-24 Movies and More fits like a glove. The atmosphere, staff and dedication to their customers makes 7-24 someplace truly special. It seems that their name isn’t a lie after all. 7-24 Movies and More does offer more than just movies, a lot more.
The Place: 7-24 Movies and More
Hours: Sun-Thurs 10:00 am – Midnight; Fri- Sat 10:00 am – 1:00 am
Find It At: 501 Church Street
Call “˜Em: (416) 924-0724
On the Web: http://www.724movies.com/
Size of Selection: 50,000
Needed to Rent: Credit card and Picture I.D.
Cost to Rent: $4.50 for Blu-ray, $4 for DVD (new releases 24 hours, newish releases 48 hours, catalogue one week)