How a teenager re-introduced video rentals in his community

A Langley student's love of tangible movies turned him into a neighbourhood celebrity.

By Joti Grewal | January 25, 2023 |5:00 am

Video rentals have made a comeback—with a twist. They’re now free, available 24 hours, and you don’t have to worry about late fees or a monthly subscription.

A new VHS and DVD rental outlet in Langley has only been open for three days, but has garnered quite the excitement in its Walnut Grove neighbourhood.

The mastermind behind the nostalgic experience is an unlikely individual: a teenager.

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Matthew Reed is a Grade 12 student at Walnut Grove Secondary. As a graduating student he was tasked to complete a capstone project—a final academic assignment meant to be a culminating experience.

It was inevitable that Matthew, a film lover, was going to centre his project around movies.

On Sunday, Matthew officially unveiled British Columbia’s first Free Blockbuster. (Located at 21496 83B Ave. Langley; it’s expected to be registered online soon.) Similar to a Little Free Library, a Free Blockbuster is a place to exchange VHS and DVD movies.

“I learned about it because I watched some videos online about Blockbuster,” he told the Current.

Despite video rental stores diminishing in popularity during Matthew’s childhood, mom Michelle says they left a strong impression on her son.

“There weren’t movie rental places around for much of his childhood. It was only a few years,” she said.

“It was just an adventure for Saturday afternoon or Wednesday evening to know that he and his sister, and his dad were going to do a movie night. They got their treats and it would be a whole family thing. To him, that was a loving feeling, like something that the family got to do together.”

That love led Matthew to develop his own collection.

But it wasn’t just a matter of putting some old tapes or disks outside. The entire experience was carefully curated and constructed. Matthew estimates he spent roughly 30 hours bringing the Free Blockbuster to life.

Matthew had originally planned to construct the cabinet out of wood, but like many other projects in the construction industry, he ran into supply issues.

“The problem was finding all the supplies, budget costs—it was way too expensive,” he said. “So there was a plan B to just buy a cabinet, buy some spray paint, and order some decals and just make the Blockbuster box from a metal cabinet.”

Some time was devoted to the construction of the cabinet and even more was spent sourcing the film. Matthew spent hours going to different thrift stores and secondary markets to try and find different movies that he thought would be appropriate for families and things that aren’t typically offered on streaming services.

His favourite find: Top Gun.

The family didn’t expect many neighbours to show interest in the movie exchange. But they were wrong.

“We’ve seen a lot of faces,” said Michelle. The foot traffic around the family home is likely due to a social media post shared by Matthew’s sister where she gushed about his work. Overnight, Matthew had become a bit of a celebrity.

The movie exchange isn’t just drawing in an older demographic.

“It’s whole families that are thinking it’s pretty cool just to actually have tangible media,” said Michelle. “Like going to a library, you never know what kind of treasure you’re going to come home with.”

Movies aren’t the only treasures the cabinet is filled with. Matthew also included popcorn and Blockbuster cards for people to take home.

He’s proud of the reaction he’s received.

But he isn’t done. Matthew plans to continue growing his collection. There are a few titles he’s still on the hunt for, like Muppets from Space, Mean Girls, and his favourite movie: Eight Mile.


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Joti Grewal

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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