“It’s the year 2000, it’s Friday, you head to Blockbuster and rent 1-2 movies to watch for the weekend. Life is good.” If you have spent any time on social media over the past few years, you will have seen some version of this. Coupled with a wonderfully dated photo of an interior of a Blockbuster video store, it induces some level of nostalgia for a simpler form of entertainment consumption – one that was more personal, more do-it-yourself and less reliant on an algorithm to place titles and shows on your feed that you might enjoy.
The decline of the video store has long been a topic of discussion. The collapse of Blockbuster ushered in a transition to online streaming that seems to have no end in sight. Yet tucked into strip malls, corner stores, variety markets, and mom-and-pop shops, you can still find movies to rent.
Squeezed between a gluten-free bakery and a dark, cozy bar sits the third iteration of Pic-A-Flic Video. After opening 40 years ago in 1983 in Cook Street Village in Victoria, Pic-A-Flic moved to its most recent location on the boundary of Victoria and Oak Bay four years ago. Pic-A-Flic rents out just about any type of film you can imagine: horror, anime, international, action, British TV, rom-com, you name it. About 25,000 DVDs and Blu-rays (even a handful of VHS tapes) line the store walls and aisles.
“It’s one of my favourite things, getting people excited about movies who never really thought of movies as more than just background entertainment,” says Kent Bendall, the current owner of Pic-A-Flic Video, who started out at the store as a part-time employee 22 years ago. “It warms my heart when I see a younger generation coming in and renting Charlie Chaplin films. That you even know who that is, that is amazing! There is always hope.”
Mr. Bendall reflects on the decline in video stores across Canada and B.C., noting that his is the only one on the island and “there is probably, maybe a couple of us in B.C. There is one in Vancouver … Black Dog closed up last year, and there’s one left named Video Cat … My distributor was saying last year that there used to be something like 10,000 video stores across Canada. It’s like 200 now.”
What about the future of the video store?
“It’s either going to go one way or the other I think,” Mr. Bendall says. “It’s going to swing really big towards everyone wanting physical media again. Like the vinyl record. Or it’s going to continue on how it is, dwindling year by year unfortunately.”