Videomatica to close doors this summer after almost three decades

Industry innovations cause the legendary video store to roll end credits

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      After 28 years of serving Vancouver’s most discerning film buffs, Videomatica will close its doors this summer.

      In a May 5 news release, co-owner Graham X Peat blamed the tremendous surge in home-video options of the past few years for the decision to finally roll the end credits on the well-known Kitsilano independent video store, and he expressed satisfaction with the almost three decades of service rendered to a faithful customer base.

      “Our goal was to build the very best collection of movies available in any one place, and I think we may have achieved that,” he wrote.

      “Although Videomatica was known for its many celebrity customers—among them Johnny Depp, David Bowie, Julie Christie, Colin Firth, and Jody Foster—the greatest joy was seeing our devoted movie fans comng in time after time to seek out their favourite films, directors, and actors.”

      Peat told the Georgia Straight by phone that it wasn’t just TV’s video on demand and Netflix that made him and original cofounder Brian Bosworth decide to shutter the operation that was famous with film aficionados for its hard-to-find titles and sheer volume of stock.

      “There are a lot of straws on that camel’s back,” he said. “There are a tremendous number of [consumer] choices out there”¦many distractions, most of them free.”

      Peat added that their decision was cemented by a gradual economic erosion, “a steady slide, definitely in the past two years. No ups and downs, just downs.”

      Although Videomatica's customers were loyal, he said, they couldn't ignore the cheaper, more convenient, or free alternatives available. "Most people will say [of the store], 'Yeah, great place, but I don't go there anymore.'"

      A definite closing date probably won’t be announced for weeks at least, he said.

      “We predict it might be before the end of the summer. We want to have control of it, and we don’t want to be one of those stores that just [disappear]. We’d like to see all our customers again and have a nice send-off.”

      After opening on the 1800-block of West Fourth Avenue in May 1983, the store expanded and moved three doors down in 1987.

      “We started with a very small inventory, 350 films,” Peat said, adding that many were classic movies, foreign releases, and music films. He said that the store’s DVD inventory alone now stands at 30,000 titles. “We still have many unique titles that you can’t get.”

      He said the documentary collection—”probably my favourite collection in the store”—is about 2,500 titles.

      Without releasing details, Peat said attempts are being made (“We’ve been in meetings for quite some time”) to ensure the collection will remain available to the public in some form in the future.

      If that is not possible, he said, he and Bosworth will hold a public sale of individual titles.

      So if you can’t live without that copy of Death in Venice, start saving your Pennies From Heaven.




      May 5, 2011 at 4:25pm

      One of the few things I miss about living in Kitsilano is Videomatica - the collection is broad, intelligent and inclusive. We still often made the trip from the Eastside to rent from them. I worry that the forces that are causing them to close are going to limit what's available to people to the most mainstream content. Videomatica will be sorely missed.

      R U Kiddingme

      May 5, 2011 at 10:16pm

      You know what I miss? 78rpm records. Also, the Pony Express. Man, that was when things were good.


      May 6, 2011 at 1:01am

      When I worked there, I served Goldie Hawn on a weekend morning when nobody else was in the store - just us. She rented all Hugh Jackman titles and we talked about movie tastes. I didn't gush or point out that I knew who she was. It was just a nice, simple moment shared between two movie fans. Videomatica will be indeed missed.


      May 6, 2011 at 7:47am

      Very sad news! While on one hand consumer choice is great, it is really quite troubling to see an independent store such as Videomatica with an excellent collection of non-mainstream fare from documentaries, to classics, to LGBT titles - lose its place within the market. Kudos Graham for what you've built and achieved over the past 30 years!

      Steve Newton

      May 6, 2011 at 8:45am

      bummer. Their cult and horror section was to die for.

      jay brazeau

      May 6, 2011 at 10:03am

      As if Harper getting back in is not depressing enough losing Videomatica is certainly the ultimate downer. There was no other store in the world that I had been to that offered the best selection and service to the film aficionado. Graham and his staff are the best. I kinda feel guilty because since I have moved to the North Shore I have not been able to use their incredible facility as I have in the past. I am not one of those people who like to use the internet to bank, buy books, order dvds to watch. I like to have a human connection with my purchases. I like to feel my bank book or my purchase in my hand. I like to see a real person on the other end of the counter. My son purchased me Netflix for my birthday and it took me an hour before I could find something to watch. Netflix to me is a dumping ground for bad movies. Those ones you find in Zeller's bins for 2.99. I cancelled it. Luckily I still have a great Video Store in my neighbourhood called Schlockbuster. It's owner is Randy and I know all the people who work there. I strongly encourage people not to forget about their local video store who turned them on to renting film in the first place. I do not want to live in a city where internet movie rental is my only option. Once again I thank Graham for Videomatica with Vancouver. He has turned on Vancouverites to countless films we would never have found. His establishment is a treasure to the city. Certainly to the arts community which has taken so many punches this year. This one feels like a K.O.


      May 6, 2011 at 10:04am

      Well, we have ourselves to blame, I guess. But I appreciate that even Graham recognizes that it's hard, even for loyal customers, to completely forego the growing variety of cheaper and sometimes free alternatives to local video stores. After all, life in Vancouver is not getting cheaper otherwise.

      I would say the city should annex Videomatica as a quasi-library and fund it publicly because its collection goes so far above and beyond that of any other store in the region, but that's of course not going to happen. But maybe you guys (at Videomatica) should consider turning your inventory into a private club of sorts. Even if you don't add a single title anymore, your fantastatic collection is worth presevering with thousands of timeless examples of film history. I'm sure a sufficient number of afficionados in Vancouver would be willing to pay a monthly or annual membership fee to have access to such a thing. You wouldn't be able to make a living off it anymore, of course, which does suck. But at least your great collection would live on. Just a thought.

      Laurence Keane

      May 6, 2011 at 10:38am

      A massive loss for people who love cinema. Irreplaceable. Graham has always been a tremendous supporter of the local film community. Many Canadian film titles that are unavailable anywhere else are available at Videomatica. Including a couple of mine! In a society where everything is measured by the dollar and "social capital" has zero value, we all end up impoverished when institutions like Videomatica bite the dust.

      R U Kiddingme

      May 6, 2011 at 7:56pm

      Having the library buy the collection is a good idea. But I have a difficult time accepting that the rarities will just disappear entirely in the age of online delivery. If I can find 2 shaggs records then there must be people who want to keep watching Ozu or the last Videomatica thing I rented, that one about the Japanese guy who goes to Iceland. Brick and mortar video rental is obsolete, the trick will be to lose as little as possible of the thing that matters which is the content. I realize that lots of people actually liked driving to the store and whatnot but a lot of people were attached to the milk delivery guys too -- at least that is what my mom said.