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Pic-A-Flic fans hope to keep the store's vast collection intact after it closes

More than 1,200 people have signed a petition urging the Greater Victoria Public Library and UVic to buy the collection of 25,000 titles from Pic-A-Flic Video
VICTORIA, B.C.: MAY 23,2023- Owner Kent Bandall at Pic A Flic Video on Pandora Avenue in Victoria, B.C. May 23, 2023. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST). For City story by Roxanne Egan-Elliot.

Fans of Victoria’s largest video rental store are throwing their support behind a petition to have the Greater Victoria Public Library and the University of Victoria take on the store’s ­collection when it closes in the fall.

More than 1,200 people have signed a petition urging the two public institutions to buy the collection of 25,000 titles from Pic-A-Flic Video.

Owner Kent Bendall announced Tuesday that the store will be closing at the end of September, when its lease is up.

Emrys Damon Miller has been a loyal Pic-A-Flic customer for 30 years. His first memory of the video rental store is as a 17-year-old interested in cinema.

While there were a lot of small local video stores at the time, Pic-A-Flic was known for having an extensive collection that went beyond the mainstream.

“They had like arty movies and cult movies and foreign movies and all these movies that all the different local video stores didn’t have,” he said.

Miller went on to study film at the University of Victoria, regularly visiting Pic-A-Flic over the years to explore the vast collection.

“There’s something about walking through Pic-A-Flic and 25,000 titles that are all presented kind of neutrally, like there isn’t an algorithm that are highlighting the 20 things that are hot right now,” he said. “A movie from Italy 20 years ago is given the same preference as a Hollywood movie from last month.”

That’s the cultural importance that will be lost if the collection is broken up, Miller said. Without a video rental collection, all anyone will have access to is streaming services.

“It’s like if humans can only communicate through Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook. It’s awkward to limit ourselves to these few big players that have algorithms and favour trends,” Miller said.

He hopes to see the collection stay intact. Recognizing that the business model was in trouble, Miller suggested to Bendall last year that the public library would be a good fit for the collection.

The idea has precedent. When a video rental store closed in Halifax in 2016, 5,500 films were purchased for $125,000 by the Halifax Public Libraries and Dalhousie University, according to a CBC report at the time.

Bendall hasn’t approached the library or UVic about purchasing the store’s inventory, but he said “lots of conversations are happening” and he’s hopeful the collection will stay together.

“There’s lots of options floating around right now, so anything can happen,” said Bendall, adding it’s too early to go into detail about any potential options.

The Greater Victoria Public Library has not approached the store about taking on the collection.

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