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From DVDs to rehearsals: Halifax theatre company transforms Video Difference building into arts hub

The 2b Theatre logo is pictured. (Source: 2b Theatre) The 2b Theatre logo is pictured. (Source: 2b Theatre)
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For more than 30 years, the smell of popcorn was inescapable at Video Difference. Anyone who walked into the store was greeted by the welcoming aroma, which almost seemed weave its way into the flooring and between the shelves of DVDs and VHSs.

It was an odour deeply associated with movies, and few spaces in Halifax were more entwined with films than Video Difference

The iconic building on Quinpool Road was renowned for its vast collection of movies and television shows; an eclectic mix of mainstream releases, obscure arthouse films, foreign classics, and flat-out strange productions.

Legions of movie buffs, college students, and curious folks perused its selection for years until it officially closed its doors in 2016. Christian Barry was one of those people who spent many hours finding films in the store.

“It’s where I spent a lot of my time in the pre-streaming days,” Barry said.

2b Theatre

Barry is the artistic director of 2b Theatre. The company, which he co-founded in 1999, seeks to foster and help grow the performance arts community in the Maritimes. The group recently moved into the old Video Difference building, seeking to transform it into an artistic hub, meeting space, and temporary housing unit for visiting performers.

“For 10 years there has been a crisis for artists and we’ve talked about how to solve it,” Barry said. “It’s hard to find rehearsal and creation spaces. (This) will be a rehearsal and creation space and office space.

“This won’t be a theatre. We’re not going to solve that problem.”

Barry said the landlord of the building allowed 2b Theatre to take over the two apartment units at the top of the building as well, which will help the group provide living space for artists who visit Halifax for shows.

“We’re a touring company so often we work with artists from out of town,” he said. “It’s getting harder to find places to house them. We all know how in-demand housing is these days. That’s what we’re trying to address with it. When we’re not using it, other artistic companies can call to use it.”

More than a dozen companies have already used the rehearsal hall.

The 2b Theatre rehearsal space at the Video Difference building in Halifax. (Source: 2b Theatre)

Leaning into the nostalgia

2b Theatre moved into the space a few months ago and only had to make a few slight changes to the building.

“We knew it was ready to roll for a lot of our needs,” Barry said. “The top floor was ready to go. There was one wall that needed to be restructured, but it was really small.”

Barry said there are other changes they want to make to the space – including the addition of accessible washrooms and a chair lift – and they’ve launched a GoFundMe campaign to cover those costs, which has already earned more than $1,400 as of May 17.

“We’re trying to take the next step,” Barry said.

The Video Difference building in Halifax. (Source: 2b Theatre)Aside from those additions, 2b Theatre aims to hold onto the classic feel of Video Difference. The large sign outside the building is still there and they will have a dedicated space for watching movies.

“We decided to lean into the nostalgia,” Barry said. “We’ll have fun interactive things like a shelf of movies. We know it’s a beloved space and that’s what we’re trying to maintain. Let people come in and enjoy it.

“It’s a work in progress. (We’re) looking forward to reintroducing the space to the public.”

Groups can book the rehearsal space by emailing bookings@2btheatre.com.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page. 

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