Are indie video stores going the way of Blockbuster?

In late October of last year, mild-mannered Amy Chan, the owner of Captain Video on St. Clair West, loaded up a moving van full of VHS tapes and DVDs. She could no longer afford to maintain the rising rent costs on her store. It follows a string of other video store closures: Blockbuster, obviously, but also smaller ventures like After Dark Video at Bathurst and College and Video 99 on St.Clair.

Former president and current treasurer of the Wychwood Heights BIA, Frank Reilly, said he was not surprised to see Captain Video shut down.

“It's kind of archaic now to even think of renting a video,” he says. “With Netflix and Rogers offering digital movies, no one rents videos anymore.”

Reilly also says that since developments have taken over the north side of St.Clair, many business owners who lease their storefronts have not been able to maintain the jacked-up rent that is now expected of the area.

The digital progression of downloading TV shows and movies is no doubt having an impact on video stores, but it was the variety of bad romantic comedies, standard blockbuster action films and independent releases that Captain Video excelled in: rogue cinema gems like Pscyho Beach Party, C.H.U.D., The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Blacula. It even had a “sealed-off” section for porn.

Captain Video’s rentals, it seemed, never had a fixed price. One of the rotating Chan family members behind the counter would give you a fee, often dirt cheap, and that fee could change with each visit. It’s a quirk that will be missed.

Margaret Liu from Sincere Realty Inc. is still looking for tenants to fill the vacant former video shop, but one thing is for certain — there will never be another store like quite like Captain Video.

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