Massive Videomatica collection donated to UBC and SFU

Defunct video store's 28,000 DVDs, 400 VHS titles, 900 Blu-ray films to be shared by local universities

As hard as it is to imagine, there was a time last year when the founders of former video rental shop Videomatica considered selling their entire collection by way of a discount bin.

"We thought about it," said Graham Peat. "But that would have been the easy route."

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Instead, Peat and business partner Brian Bosworth have donated the bulk of their 28,000 DVDs, 4,000 VHS titles and 900 Bluray films jointly to the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University.

Videomatica was a popular video rental store that opened in 1983 and specialized in rare and esoteric titles. But Videomatica, often referred to as the "best video store in Canada," was forced to close this summer due to decreasing DVD rentals at the hands of shifting demographics, new technology and, of course, Netflix, the online movie and television streaming site, which boasts 25 million subscribers in Canada and the United States. Since the service launched in Canada in September 2010, all but a handful of video stores in Vancouver have closed up shop.

A reconfigured version of Videomatica recently opened in Zulu Records on Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano, where today Peat and Bosworth sell DVDs out of a tiny area next to records and CDs.

Much of the Videomatica collection will be housed at UBC Library, with more than 5,000 duplicates eventually made available through UBC's Department of Theatre and Film. SFU will receive about 2,800 documentaries. The collection includes feature films, literary adaptations, cult and art films, foreign films from 75 countries, Canadian works and selections from the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Peat said initially the business partners had no idea what to do with the collection.

"We were determined to keep the collection together so we put it out there to some schools and universities," said Peat. "Then we had a conversation with UBC and SFU and they decided to split the collection."

One concern was the large cost of organizing, cataloguing and creating a database for the collection. Peat and Bosworth, both former UBC students, were also adamant the collection remain accessible to the public. That's when former customer and philanthropist Yosef Wosk got involved.

"He brought all the parties to the table," said Peat. "Yosef was extremely helpful and we were really happy to work with him."

Jo Anne Newyear Ramirez, UBC Library's associate university librarian in charge of collections management, said even though a comprehensive inventory has yet to be completed, the collection is already causing excitement among staff.

"Some instructors immediately grabbed 20 or 30 [titles] for use in their curriculum," said Newyear Ramirez.

She added UBC and SFU agreed to make the collection available to both universities, despite the fact it's physically split between the two.

"That way it wasn't necessary to get our hands on both," said Newyear Ramirez, who describes her job as considering the "big picture" when it comes to the collection.

SFU's Dean of Library Services Charles Eckman said the university is "thrilled to be the new home for Videomatica's renowned collection of Canadian and international documentaries, carefully identified and acquired over the course of three decades."

"And we plan to steward the material according to the highest professional standards," said Eckman.

Peat said while the collection is being organized there's talk some video nights for movie buffs could be held to keep interest in the films alive.

"It's always been about engaging the public," he said.

sthomas@vancourier.com

Twitter: @sthomas10

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