In the current video rental climate, there’s no doubt that many of Toronto’s local independent video stores are starting to feel the burn thanks to the growing popularity of the digital download. Not so at Videoflicks, the midtown home video institution that’s been serving the surrounding community for more than 25 years. “[Netflix] seems to have had little effect on us; year after year we have been experiencing double-digit gains,” says owner Steve Cohen. Maybe it’s the comprehensive 15,000-strong inventory of everything from new releases to foreign to cult to kiddie favourites or maybe it’s the free popcorn and extremely helpful staff, but there’s no doubt that Toronto cinephiles realize a good thing when they have it.
Considered a radical business concept back in the dawn of the home video industry in 1981, Videoflicks was one of the first video stores to open in Toronto. Michael and Beverly Kavanagh took a big risk on what may have proved to be a fly-by-night fad, but they prevailed and 31 years later, Videoflicks is still going strong. The Kavanaghs sold the business in 2004 and Cohen and his partner Joe Carlino took over the shop.
Videoflicks offers rental rates and durations that are some of the most reasonable in Toronto. A new release rental (one of the films on the street level of the store) will cost you $4.43 (tax not included). The better deal is to rent 3 new releases for $10. With both options you get to keep the films for 5 days. With the Library titles, which are located in the basement level of the store, you’re given several rental options: 1 for 5 days at $2.99; 2 for 5 days at $5; 5 for 7 days at $10.99; 7 for 7 days at $12.99. Kids’ movies rent for 7 days and range from $.99 to $2.99.
With so much to choose from it’s no wonder that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what Videoflicks’ clientele prefer, “Our customers watch everything from mainstream new releases, to foreign movies, documentaries, TV shows, and we have a huge following for British movies and TV series.” explains Cohen. In fact, just wandering around the lower level of the store ““ where much of the inventory is housed ““ is enough to make you want to call in sick to work and catch up on your film history. Beware: you’ll enter the store with one movie in mind and leave with an armload you never even knew you wanted to see.
THE INSIDE SCOOP
“I think if you walk inside our store you will see it is visually different than any other video store. It looks more like an upscale boutique than a cluttered, poster-laden video store.” says Cohen. The store also boasts a strong focus on customer service, film expertise and family, not to mention an affinity for customers of the four-legged variety. “All the dogs around the area, they know which stores give out cookies, and we have a huge dog bowl up on the counter filled with cookies.” laughs Cohen “People tell us, like two blocks away, my dog starts dragging me to Videoflicks.”
In the mood to while away a rainy day with a Hitchcock marathon? Looking to indulge in your secret crush on Paul Newman? Attempting to find some age appropriate time-wasters for a teenage girl’s slumber party? Videoflicks has a whole host of options, thoughtfully curated and arranged based on frequent request on their website. You can even call ahead and reserve your picks to make sure you don’t miss out.
WHY GET OFF THE COUCH?
Don’t know what you feel like watching? Videoflicks’ staff will help you puzzle it out. “What we do is walk around with you and discuss which films you have enjoyed and get a feel for your tastes before we can recommend,” explains Cohen. It’s this type of personal touch and attention to customers’ tastes and preferences that have earned the store a loyal following for the last 30 years.
Cohen highly recommends “˜70s classics Paper Moon and What’s Up Doc? while Carlino favours What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and East Is East. Cohen also reveals a fondness for animated feature Mary and Max, which he calls “a brilliant Australian tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals, voiced by Toni Collette and Philip Seymour Hoffman.”
The Place: Videoflicks
Hours: Monday ““ Thursday: 10 am ““ 10 pm. Friday ““ Saturday: 10 am ““ 11 pm. Sunday: 11am ““ 10pm
Find It At: 1701 Avenue Rd.
Call “˜Em: (416) 782-1883
On the Web: http://www.myvideoflicks.ca/
Size of Selection: 15,000 +
Needed to Rent: Photo I.D. and a major credit card
Cost to Rent: $4.43 for a new release, $2.99 for an older title.