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The recently reopened Jumbo Video in Belleville, Ont.Supplied

To some, the mention of Jumbo Video will mean nothing. To others, the words might conjure hazy images of popcorn machines, in-store browsing and old-fashioned VHS situations. An elephant never forgets. Have you?

In Belleville, Ont., a pair of film-industry veterans have reached back into the past to resurrect one of the last remaining Jumbo Video stores in Canada. Known for its trumpeting elephant logo, the chain of video rental outlets is long defunct. A family-owned store – a ma-and-popcorn operation, if you will – still exists in London, and now the reopening of a shuttered Jumbo in the sleepy city of some 50,000 hopes to excite the area cinephiles who crave a human touch and an in-person experience.

“I’m a hard core film fan and I’m guessing there’s got to be other people like me,” says Nigel Hartwell, a filmmaker who co-owns the store with Bill Lucas. “I suppose this is the right place at the right time for this opportunity for us.”

Right time, or chronological inconsistency? Hartwell, a self-described child of the eighties, believes the answer is both.

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The store has rentals and movie collectibles.Supplied

What made you decide to open a Jumbo Video outlet in 2022?

Last August, the original owner decided he was closing the doors. He’d had enough, and he reached out to me because he knew I was a filmmaker. I’d spoken to him about putting my latest film in his store. So the opportunity came up to buy the business. I didn’t want to let it die.

I’m assuming your business plan involves changes in the way the store was previously operated.

The rentals are still there. But we’re also focusing on selling movie collectibles. When people walk in, they’ll see movie memorabilia and autographed items. My partner and I work in the film industry, so we have a lot of access to this stuff. Basically, we’ve brought in a Fan Expo experience to the storefront. This is the store we’d like to visit ourselves.

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The store offers a monthly subscription for $19.99.Supplied

Can you compete with all the streaming services available to movie fans?

We think we can. There are many services and they’re all charging a certain amount per month. Unless you pay all those subscriptions, you can’t find all the movies you want to see. What we’re providing is 10,000 titles for a monthly subscription of $19.99. You can come in and rent a film and swap it for another whenever you want. Subscribers also get a video-on-demand library of 5,000 other titles, and they receive 15 per cent off any purchases. We want this to be a convenient place to come.

Belleville is also the home of the last Sam the Record Man outlet. Is it the city that time forgot?

I guess it is. I grew up in Belleville. In fact, I had an internship at Jumbo Video when it first opened back in the VHS days. It’s where I learned about movie distribution, before I eventually went to film school. My partner and I both have family in the city. We’re setting the store up now and getting it going. After that, family members will operate the store and we’ll go back to our jobs in the film industry.

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Fresh popcorn at Jumbo Video.Supplied

Will you be supporting the independent filmmaking community?

We are. I’m asking independent filmmakers if they’d like to have their film in the store for people to rent. Only one of my own films is here. It’s The Demented, starring Bret Hart. I’ll have to speak with the distributor of my previous films about that.

And I have to ask, do you still have the old-style Jumbo popcorn machine?

Absolutely. The popcorn is fresh every day. You smell it as soon as you walk in the door, let’s put it that way.

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