Movie fans had lots of options in 1992 with titles such as Chaplin, Reservoir Dogs, Wayne’s World and Aladdin opening in the theatres and video rental stores popping up in every neighbourhood.
“I was working part time at the radio station, CKLA, here in Guelph while I was going to Ryerson for business administration,” said Alan McCrae, owner and founder of Cinema 1. “I wanted to own a business and I loved movies.”
He read a newspaper story about an old high school friend who collected movies and wondered if there was a market for others like him who wanted to own movies rather than just rent them. McCrae pitched the idea to a colleague at the radio station and they decided to open a store together.
“I finished Ryerson in April 1992 and we opened here in Stone Road Mall in August 1992,” said McCrae. “When we first opened the concept was new. We kind of learned as we went along.”
It was a challenging learning curve. Their first location near the mall entrance wasn’t getting the kind of traffic they needed to stay afloat.
“The first year was very, very slow,” said McCrae. “We wondered what we were going to do. We decided we would either close or see about another location in the mall. We moved the location and business took off.”
Fast forward to 2017, where video streaming services such as Netflix have put most video rental shops out of business. One might have expected Cinema 1 to suffer the same fate but it has not only survived it has expanded to seven locations throughout Southwestern Ontario.
“One of the reasons we do well is we are a specialty store,” said McCrae. “When you dabble in a bunch of different things it is hard to do a good job on many things. If you concentrate on what you started with and you’re a specialty store, it does well and comes easy.”
Their specialty is providing a broad selection of quality DVD and Blu-ray movies.
“Netflix has just over 3,000 movies and tv shows and a lot of those may not be the best,” said McCrae. “We have more than 10,000 titles. It is all based on what people are asking for and we can order from more than 100,000 titles available.”
McCrae said that, because of the limitations of the Internet, streaming services have to sacrifice video and audio quality to get films to their customers.
“If you are a movie lover the best way to watch it is on a Blu-ray because it is by far the best quality,” he said. “Even streaming services who advertize ultra, super HD, are streaming compressed files. A Blu-ray has a bit rate of maybe 30 whereas a good streaming service might have a bit rate of five or six.”
He said Cinema 1’s growing list of loyal customers are movie enthusiasts who want to own high quality copies of the films they love.
To celebrate the store’s 25th anniversary they are launching a new website and offering specials on classic films and titles from 1992.
“I know the market has shrunk in general but for us really nothing has changed,” said McCrae. “Traffic is still good. People are still buying movies. The streaming and on-demand is kind of like a different channel.”