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Documentary about Calgary gaming store to make worldwide premiere at CUFF

In the heart of Calgary’s Sunalta community, there is a massive mecca for gamers of all ages, and now the city staple is the subject of a documentary.

"It was definitely flattering," said Gordon Johansen, the owner of game store The Sentry Box. "It was a lot of fun to do."

The store opened more than four decades ago with Gordon Johansen at the helm.

"I wanted to get cheap games for myself, which is the real reason for (buying the store)," said Johansen. "I always wanted to run a game store."

At over 19,000 square feet and with more than 100,000 items on its shelves, Johansen claims his game store is one of the largest in the world.

"Nobody's ever claimed to be bigger than us," he said.

Size aside, Johansen says the store’s collection is one of a kind.

"There's 100,000 different items in here," he said. "We just don't normally get rid of things, so people can find a lot of stuff that you just won't find anywhere else."

Johansen shares the story of his business in the movie Friendly Local Game Store, which will have its world premiere at the Calgary Underground Film Festival (CUFF) at the end of April.

The film is the brainchild of Garry Snow, a local director and producer.

"Like many other people, I found myself without a job in the middle of the pandemic, and I thought ‘What are those things that I always wanted to do that I just never got a chance to do?’” said Snow.

After pitching the idea to Johansen, Snow began filming in June.

"I grew up playing Dungeons and Dragons, and so when I looked at the projects I wanted to do, I thought 'I can combine all my passions of filmmaking and games in general into one project,'” Snow said. “It just made complete sense to me.”

Snow got his first swing at filmmaking while participating in the 48-Hour Movie Making Challenge at CUFF, which is returning to the festival this year after a hiatus.

Friendly Local Game Store will be Snow’s debut documentary.

"There's employees, former employees, there's customers that have been coming here for 40-plus years," he said. "It was really humbling to actually be able to share their experience and showcase the community that surrounds The Sentry Box."

Snow says that community is one he's very grateful for.

“You see so many people coming in that you've watched grow up,” he said. “I never thought it would get this big, or this popular.”

Friendly Local Game Store will be showcased at CUFF on April 28 at the Globe Cinema.

More information, and the full lineup of films, can be found on CUFF’s website