In 2020, Nelson Civic Theatre Society added Nelson’s beloved 34-year-old video store, Reo’s Video, to our community programs and services for two reasons. We knew that in addition to being closed by public health mandate, the store needed to move and would possibly close altogether given the combination of circumstances. We also had long valued Reo’s as a cousin to The Civic Theatre, and it mattered deeply to us that Reo’s continued to operate. Like our theatre, Reo’s Video has long played an important cultural role in nurturing local appreciation for film and cinema history of Canada and the world.
It took us six months to find a new space for the store, and we were delighted to end up at 225 Hall St., where Reo’s Video is now. During that time we heard from many, many Reo’s customers, eager to get back to their nightly or weekly rental schedule. We were confident that once we reopened, Reo’s would return to its usual business.
When we reopened in March 2021, the first few weeks looked pretty good — people were coming in, checking out the new store, and renting videos. The honeymoon was short-lived though: in comparison to pre-Covid levels, store income overall has dropped by more than half.
Last week, I sent an email to our subscribers asking people to come back by Oct. 31. We have set a goal that the month needs to break even for us to keep the store going.
What has happened since has been heartwarming. We’ve had people donate to Reo’s (after all, the store is now a program of Nelson Civic Theatre Society (NCTS) which is a charity that can offer tax receipts), and we’ve had a great number of people come in and rent a video. We were genuinely moved by the customer who told us he had cancelled his online screening service and will be renting videos from Reo’s from now on.
This got me thinking about streaming services and their impact on our local economy. Given that a lot of us here in the Kootenays are deeply committed to buying local and supporting local businesses, I thought there was a lens worth sharing regarding how we enjoy films and shows: when you rent a video at Reo’s or see a movie at The Civic rather than streaming content at home, you are supporting local.
Your ticket purchase and video rental contribute to local jobs and local services — NCTS employs more than a dozen local people and engages dozens more as volunteers. Every time you spend in these places, you are supporting these local jobs and local voices in our programming and events. (And with the climbing prices of streaming services in recent months, video rentals have started to look like an especially good deal!)
I’ve also been surprised by another thing, since once again becoming a regular video-renter myself: when you bring home a film from Reo’s it is an event, as opposed to surfing through Netflix and binge-watching shows. I was surprised by just how curatorial it felt to put the disc into the DVD player and sit down for a finite amount of time with my family to watch a movie, without any expectation that there would be more after that. In this time of YouTube and TikTok, and increasingly minuscule attention spans, bringing home a video seemed to have a calming effect that I didn’t expect. I highly recommend giving it a try!
We need you to come back to Reo’s Video, or to check it out for the first time, if you’ve never been. Come say hello to our knowledgeable staff, who know the collection well and can help you find just the right flick among our more than 18,000 titles, most of which you can’t find on any streaming service anyway. If you don’t have a DVD player (or a game console, which can play our movies too), we can rent you one with your film. And don’t miss International Independent Video Store Day on Saturday, Oct. 16 from 2 to 8 p.m. when we’ll be celebrating with great deals on video rentals, free early Halloween candy, door prizes and more.
This is the time to support your local independent video store. We have great big plans for the future of Reo’s Video, such as adding an in-store microcinema, building out film education events based on genres, directors, themes and other qualities, and re-establishing our in-store merchandise, ranging from Pokémon cards to comics and graphic novels, cinephile gifts, clothing, and much more. But we can’t move forward with these things unless we know we still have a solid audience for video rentals first.
I hope we’ll see you soon at Reo’s Video. Your movie is waiting.
Eleanor Stacey is the executive director of Nelson Civic Theatre Society, which operates The Civic Theatre and Reo’s Video.