Nova Scotia

Video Difference film collection being bought by Halifax Public Libraries, Dalhousie

Halifax Public Libraries and Dalhousie University will buy 5,500 films from Video Difference, an iconic Halifax rental store closing soon.

'Treasure trove' of 5,500 films will be made accessible to the public

Video Difference will be shutting its doors in Halifax, but Halifax Public Libraries and Dalhousie University will be buying 5,500 of its films. (Google Maps)

Thousands of hard-to-find films will be saved for the public as an iconic rental store gets set to close. 

Halifax Public Libraries and Dalhousie University said Tuesday they will buy the films from Halifax's Video Difference.

"To have parts of that collection live on and be available for the public is really part of the lasting legacy of Video Difference," Halifax Public Libraries chief librarian and CEO Asa Kachan said in an interview.

$125K for 5,500 films

Video Difference, which is 34 years old, has 40,000 titles. The two public institutions will buy 5,500 of those, at a cost of $100,000 for Halifax Public Libraries and $25,000 for Dalhousie University. 

"From our perspective, that's a very reasonable price," Kachan said.

"We anticipate it would be significantly more [to buy individually]. What exactly that bottomline figure is, we haven't gone into that amount of detail."

Other films for sale Saturday

When the store announced its closure, it also said its film collection would be liquidated starting this Saturday, of which a portion of the proceeds would go to staff.

Store owner Tom Michael later said the library and a university had approached him about purchasing films, and that he was interested in keeping the collection together.

"We knew we had a relatively small window," Kachan said. "As soon as the news broke, we began conversations."

The store stopped renting films Monday.

Acquired titles

Some of the films acquired by the library include:

  • American Film Institute titles.
  • British Film Institute titles.
  • More than 1,000 foreign films.
  • Documentaries.
  • About 1,000 box sets of British and international TV series.
  • Classics and horror.
  • The entire LGBTQ collection.
  • The entire Canadian film collection.

Exceptional quality

Kachan, who immigrated to Canada from Sweden, has been a dedicated Video Difference customer since moving to Halifax 12 years ago. In particular, she's excited for the box sets of Scandavian television shows.

"[The films] really give us an opportunity to reflect and evaluate our own culture and other cultures," Kachan said.

"It's tremendously important, and the quality of what's been curated at Video Difference is exceptional. It really has been just a treasure trove to discover and acquire a number of those items."

'Difficult to acquire'

Dalhousie bought 1,000 titles, including silent films, French and Spanish language titles and films from Ireland, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand. Those will be available to the public, but also will be used by university courses, university librarian Donna Bourne-Tyson said.

"These are titles that are very difficult to acquire anywhere else. They aren't available through streaming media, for instance," she said.

All the films will be available to anyone through the Borrow Anywhere, Return Anywhere agreement, which allows full access to public and academic libraries around the province. 

The ones at Dalhousie may be occasionally put on reserve when being used by a university course.

Dalhousie wants more

Dalhousie is crowdfunding to buy more titles, Bourne-Tyson said. Already, a donation of $10,000 went toward the $25,000 purchase price, she said.

"There are always more things we would buy if we had more money," Bourne-Tyson said.

"This has inspired us to really just enhance the collection in general."


Rachel Ward


Rachel Ward is a journalist with the Fifth Estate. You can reach her with questions or story ideas at