Indie Video Viewing in Toronto

It wasn’t long ago that pundits were clamoring for the end of the independent video shop — bricks and mortar was soooo pre-millennium. But with this year’s downfall of the final megachain in the link, Blockbuster Video, and the Canadian version of Netflix still finding its feet in terms of a truly respectable home-grown selection, it appears the market is hungrier than ever for plucky film nerds. If you want to rent a flick in Toronto, there are still plenty of options. Here are a few.

Suspect Video
More than just a video store, Suspect Video is a Mecca for the otaku; stuffed with films, books, pop culture magazines and memorabilia. Though it has built a reputation with its special emphasis on horror and cult flicks, Suspect rarely disappoints when it comes to sniffing out everything from obscure television shows to vintage moving pictures starring, shall we say, women of questionable morality. While gone is their legendary Staff Picks section, in its place is the even more awesome Overlooked Gems Wall, featuring 72 of the best, but forgotten, films chosen by staff for a mere $2 per week. 605 Markham St., 416-588-6674.

Queen Video
For nearly thirty years, Queen Video has existed as the anti-Blockbuster, a purely Toronto mini-chain that focuses on the offbeat and the film school-appropriate as opposed to the commercial. It’s a place where you’ll find films organized by auteur rather than genre and staffed by a certain type of horn-rimmed clerk that is more inclined to recommend Fellini than Spielberg. In other words, it’s a film geek’s wet dream. 412 Queen St. W., (416) 504-3030; 480 Bloor St. W., 416-588-5767; 688 College St., 416-532-0555.

Eyesore Cinema
A few years ago, if you were looking for a good independent video shop in downtown Toronto, you would probably be sent one of two places: Queen Video or Suspect Video. That is, until Suspect burned down. But from its ashes comes Eyesore Cinema, Daniel Hanna’s new shrine to rare, import, specialty DVDs and, yes, homemade baked goods. Eyesore is also the only place to buy advance tickets to screenings at Trash Palace, Toronto’s home of obscure B films and kitsch. 801 Queen St. W., 416-955-1599.

Bay St. Video
There’s one reason you’ll venture to Bay and Bloor to look for a video: they have it. That’s practically a guarantee. Meticulously organized and obsessively stocked, Bay St. Video has some of the best selection you’ll find anywhere. In fact, they boast Toronto’s biggest DVD selection, so if you’re looking for something either off the beaten track or on, you’ll probably find it here. Try to stump the staff, it can’t be done. 1172 Bay St., 416-964-9088.

Black Dog Video
Black Dog Video has a lot going for it: ice cream, excellent coffee, an enviable Trinity Bellwoods–adjacent location, and, oh yeah, some of the best rental prices in town. It’s no surprise it’s a West Coast transplant; Black Dog is one of the most laid back video shops in town. Rent if you want. Otherwise just have a coffee and geek out with the staff. 986 Queen Street West, 416-530-0006.

The Little Video Shop
Tucked away in Baldwin Village, The Little Video Shop has “hidden gem” written all over it. Hell, it’s practically in the name. Not only does it have a 7,000 title archive, but also homemade gelato, coffee, tea, a salon atmosphere and an owner, Leila DeCiantis, who’s passionate enough about non-canon titles that she’s created a list of promotions that encourage you to order them. For instance, want a new release on a Thursday? She’ll throw in a Canadian film. And if you walk by in the summer, you can often catch a film being screened right outside the shop. 13 Baldwin St., 416-205-9435.

Image courtesy of Frigante.

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