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The Lobby keeps Edmonton movie rentals alive

by Stewart Cole

As Halloween approaches, many Edmontonians may be looking for a scare, and “the movie guy” is here to help.

Kevin Martin, aka “the movie guy,” owns The Lobby, Edmonton’s latest movie rental store. Whatever you’re looking to see, he said he’ll help you find it.

“The one thing…streaming sites don’t have it yet is a proper algorithm. I’m the human algorithm. Tell me what you want, tell me what you like.”

“Do you like this? You will like this.”

Martin said when it opened The Lobby in 2005, it was a small business trying to compete with big brands like Blockbuster. A fan of alternative films, he carved out a niche by bringing in B-movies, independent and foreign films, and many horror films.

Now, he added, movies that were mainstream decades ago are hard to find on streaming platforms, and The Lobby has also become home to classic action and comedy movies.

“The store has become more about helping people find the movies they used to love when they were younger but can’t remember the name of it or can’t seem to find it,” he said. “So, in a weird way, I’m like the bounty hunter of cinema – I’ll track it down for them.”

It carries about 120 movies a week, Martin said, with a fluctuating inventory of up to 11,000 movies to rent or buy. And, the store is a haven of horror with about 60 percent of the stock falling into the genre.

“Everybody loves a good horror movie. Everybody needs a good scare,” Martin said.

For thrill seekers, he said the classics are a good place to start, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Shining, Halloween and The Thing are great choices if you haven’t seen them yet.

But if you’re looking for something scarier, Martin said he’s happy to help.

“You have your customers who say, ‘I need something to take my mind. Something more extreme,” he said, adding that a trip to the foreign section usually does the trick.

“Everybody’s tastes are different, and you hope when those movies come back they give you the look of, ‘Thanks, I guess. Because that really worked for me on such a wrong level.”

If you’re looking for something extra-local, you can’t get any closer to domestic horror than renting one of Martin’s short films, which are set in The Lobby and feature Martin playing a version of himself. He said a full-length feature film starring him and The Lobby will premiere in 2023.

There are still a lot of people who come in to rent movies, Martin said, but he still maintains a second job to help pay the bills. With no plans to close the store, he says there are no plans to retire.

“The only reason I’ve been able to survive is because I obviously don’t believe in making money,” Martin said. “A lot of people, I find, work their whole lives at a job they hate to make that good retirement money.”

“I’ll just keep working, I like what I do so it doesn’t feel like work.”

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Nicole Weisberg

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