Howard Levman’s gutsy little video store on Queen Street West outlasted American behemoths like Blockbuster and managed to stave off a slew of other invading chains and big box retailers, but in the end, after 35 long years, it finally met its match.
Queen Video is closing its iconic location at 412 Queen Street West, the victim of insurmountable online competition and a younger generation’s aversion to forking out cash at brick and mortar stores.
Levman laments the changes that will ultimately shutter his flagship store, but he knows he had a good run. “People just prefer to press a few buttons and sit on their couch,” he told CityNews.ca in a phone interview on Thursday.
“Young people prefer not to pay for books, music or movies,” he said. “So we’re not replenishing our old customers.”
Long before people binge watched episodes of House of Cards in their pajamas like crazed addicts, Queen Video was a gathering place for cinephiles seeking out a plethora of rare offerings.
“It was like a resource library for decades,” he said of the store’s epic collection of more than 50,000 DVDs.
And whether it was a Swedish TV show or a British gangster film, there was something for everyone. “A lot of people relied on us to direct them to filmmakers and (movies) that they never would have known to take.”
It’s that personal connection that he says computerized algorithms just can’t replace.
“They aren’t film people who figure those things out. Those are just popularity contests,” he notes.
He also feels Netflix and other similar services don’t offer those with a taste for the more offbeat and obscure the same variety.
“It’s usually Hollywood’s Top 40 and a few others but there’s a whole wealth of product around the world that they tend to ignore.”
Levman says he’s selling off the entire collection from the Queen West store, starting on Friday at 11 a.m. Queen Video’s Annex location at 480 Bloor Street West will remain open.
“There’s a lot of rare stuff,” he said. “You name it I have everything from silent era to film noir classics … documentaries on every subject imaginable, every television show and everything right up to present day.”
He says the store will remain open for around the next six weeks as he sells off tens of thousands of titles.
In the end, it’s not the movies he’ll miss. It’s the people.
“We have a sign on the door saying ‘Thank you for 35 years, letting us be part of your lives.’ It sort of says it all.”
“Queen Video is a success story too,” he said. “It’s not just sadness.”