Vancouver cinephiles faced a potential major loss of film archives when Kitsilano video rental store Videomatica, a local cultural institution for almost 30 years, closed down in 2011.
The store was opened by Graham Peat and Brian Bosworth in 1983 and amassed a sprawling collection of over 35,000 movie titles, including films from over 75 countries, cult and art films, Canadian titles, LGBT works, and more.
Efforts were launched to save the $1.7-million collection. Vancouver philanthropist and former SFU Continuing Education director Yosef Wosk brokered a donation and purchase agreement, announced on January 16, 2012, that enabled UBC and SFU to acquire the expansive collection.
UBC received approximately 28,000 DVDs, 4,000 VHS titles, and 900 Blu-ray discs while SFU received over 2,500 documentaries in various formats.
UBC and SFU announced on January 27 that the public can now borrow the films from the collection, which can be browsed through online, with a valid library card from each respective university.
Peat, on the line from Victoria, said he himself enjoyed looking through the collection online with a fresh perspective.
"I had actually forgotten how unique and diverse the collection was until I sat down the other night and used the link and started looking through the Videomatica collection at UBC….The titles were unbelievably obscure….I really surprised myself looking at it, thinking, 'Wow, we had all this stuff. This is incredible. I don't think you'd find it anywhere There's no way this stuff is commercial. This is fantastic.' "
He added that this is only the beginning as the collection will continue to evolve.
"Both SFU and UBC, in talks with us, have pretty much decided that it shouldn't entirely be a static collection, that it might serve well to be added to and updated. And SFU had already started doing that with our help for the documentaries, and I think UBC's going to go the same route so we've not only been involved in that…but UBC and SFU have screening series coming up with different themes….It's to introduce people to the collection…and enjoy some of the films, and if it goes well, they'll keep it up and possibly expand it."
What's more, the collection will be introduced to the public through UBC's Cinema Salon screening series (not to be confused with Vancity Theatre's Cinema Salon series). The free series, to be held at the Koerner Library at UBC, will kick off with screenings of Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (1987) on January 30, David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983) on February 27, and Karim Ainouz's Madame Satã (2002) on March 27.
SFU will present a family-friendly screening from its documentary collection for the public in the spring.
Peat said he's pleased with how things have turned out.
"It does feel like a completion and a happy ending," Peat said.
Videomatica continues on as a sale-only counter across the street from its original location within Zulu Records.