This video store — yes, an actual video store — is raising funds online to stay afloat

Edmonton

After a sluggish winter, Movie World in Stony Plain, Alta., west of Edmonton, is struggling to stay open. Owner Joe French is hoping nostalgia will bring customers back.

Movie World, in Stony Plain, Alta., 40 kilometres west of Edmonton, opened about 40 years ago.(Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

The days of rushing to get that hot new movie release for the weekend from the video store may be gone — unless you head to Movie World in Stony Plain, west of Edmonton.

Owner Joe French is trying to keep the blast-from-the-past business afloat.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges, this winter — usually peak season for rentals — has been slower than expected.

That prompted French to launch a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to help keep the store open.

"It was very much a last resort," French said. "People have been unbelievably generous."

Since the campaign began last week, it has raised more than $2,500 — about half of its goal. French said foot traffic is up as well.

Joe French took over as owner of Movie World in 2020. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

"This past weekend was incredible," he said. "It was one of the busiest nights I've ever had."

The support has touched him.

"Everyone that comes in is asking how we're doing and making sure we're not closing, and that is the absolute last thing I want to do," he said.

French took over the business in 2020 during the pandemic, a time when he thought people were looking for at-home entertainment.

He's expanded from renting DVDs and Blu-ray discs to VHS sales, collectibles and video games.

The business has had multiple owners but has been in the same spot for more than 40 years, which French believes is part of what is motivating people to support Movie World.

But bringing in new customers is a key part of his business strategy, and he can always tell when a first-time customer walks in the door.

"[They'll say] 'It's like a flashback,' or, 'It's taken me back to my childhood.'

"It never gets old, though," French said. "Especially when a family will come in and they're bringing their kids. They walk them around and show them what it was like when they got to go to the video store."

French is always trying to update or add to Movie World's collection.(Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

French said there are thousands of films that aren't available on streaming services.

Those rare or hard to find titles are one of the reasons Nicholas Friesen opted to support the fundraiser.

"At a place like Movie World there is something for everyone," Friesen said. "I once walked out with two bizarre horror films from the '70s and a DVD of.

"They also have the best popcorn in town," he added.

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