A short distance east of Billings Bridge in Ottawa’s Alta Vista neighbourhood, there’s a modest strip mall on Kilborn Avenue that’s home to one of the city’s last two movie rental stores: Movies ’n Stuff.  

The shop is a flash to the past for long-time cinephiles. Lining the walls and aisles is a library of tall shelves filled with hundreds upon hundreds of old films, some new releases and even a selection of video games.  

Sitting at the store's front desk, Peter Thompson works and waits for customers. He is wearing a mask and a red hat. Above him stands a Darth Vader figurine with its lightsabre extended, and off to the side stand cardboard cutouts of movie stars. Along the walls and aisles are shelves filled with DVDs. It is a memorable scene for cinephiles.
Peter Thompson works at the front desk of Movies ’n Stuff on Kilborn Avenue in Alta Vista.  [Photo © Nicky Shaw] 

When visitors purchase their DVD rentals, they find themselves in the shadow of a looming Darth Vader figurine and cardboard cutouts of famous movie stars, including Uma Thurman from Kill Bill and Robert Downey, Jr. from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. 

Peter Thompson, the store’s owner, inherited the browse-and-rent business from his parents five years ago after working at the location since his family opened Movies ’n Stuff about 30 years ago.    

Thompson said over the decades, he’s gotten to know the community’s residents and their tastes very well.  

“You start to curate your selections to fit the community,” said Thompson. “That includes getting the British detective series that everyone seems to like around here, but also getting a lot of the foreign stuff, whether that be newer or older quality films.” 

On average, the store sees a few hundred people weekly. While customers range from regulars to the occasional collector, Thompson said he considers all of them important. 

With this steady consumer base, Movies n’ Stuff has become a successful, nostalgia-tinged outlier in an industry now dominated by mainstream movie streaming platforms. 

Still, Thompson said he believes there will be more and more people who will start to realize the relevance of a good video store in the future, especially with the increasing cost of some digital services. 

“Even if those (subscription) services are $10 a month, those services are getting up there, and who’s going to pay $200 to watch several different shows on 16 different platforms?” said Thompson. 

Thompson further argued that the mass consumption of online film and TV streaming could benefit movie rental stores down the line.  

“I think with the amount of streaming going on, there is a sort of streaming fatigue that probably even enhances bricks and mortar stores,” Thompson said. “And, you’ll probably see a few pop up in the future.”