‘I couldn’t settle into normal life’ - The story behind a unique Norwich shop
PUBLISHED: 10:28 15 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:16 16 August 2019
With streaming sites and Hollywood blockbusters dominating the film industry, one Norwich man and his specialist collector’s shop have fought to keep the spirit of cinema alive.
Nestled away on St Gregory's Alley is The Movie Shop which, for the past three decades, has been a treasure cove of unique films, magazines, books and cinema memorabilia.
Peter Cossey, from Mile Cross, was inspired by the record shops of his youth when the shop opened in 1985.
He said: "You embed yourself in collector's shops when you're younger, buying records. It's what shapes you. I look back at the things I got when I was a teenager and they still have the most profound impact on me now."
But as a self-confessed cinephile with over 1,000 movies in his personal collection Mr Cossey, now in his 70s, instead focussed on classic films for the shop.
He said: "After the war, the cinema was everything. There were 13 cinemas in Norwich and people would go up to three times a week. They wouldn't even care about what they were watching. I loved those old films and they can be difficult to get hold of. Cinema has changed a lot now and I don't go often anymore. I'm very retro and that's exactly what I stock in my shop."
Some visitors have even travelled as far as Norway to buy from The Movie Shop's rare collection and Mr Cossey has welcomed several celebrity customers.
Mr Cossey said: "The best thing about the shop is the interesting people I meet and the conversations we have. Jools Holland would pop in when he was in town and Tim Curry from The Rocky Horror Picture Show film. I also met a Jack the Ripper expert who had lived with Johnny Depp for a couple of weeks whilst he was preparing for a film role."
Most of the customers he meets though are fellow collectors who have been unmoved by technology and still buy VHS videos.
He said: "Collecting is an art form and streaming isn't for me and a lot of us. It may have destroyed the middle of the road market, as all those films are on Netflix, but real collectors want physical objects. "They want to own things. There's nothing like holding a film and having your own film library. I don't try to pretend collecting is sensible!"
Among the shop's most coveted items are signed photos by actors from Hollywood's Golden age and niche films which date back to the 1930s.
Mr Cossey recently sold autographed pictures by actors John Wayne and Boris Karloff as well as a vintage James Bond Goldfinger poster.
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But it took Mr Cossey 20 years before he became a professional collector after spending his twenties "drifting about and doing odd jobs and not sticking at them" he said.
He added: "I never liked work. I did a bunch of jobs from warehouse work to farming but I couldn't settle into mainstream, normal life. I hated being told what to do.
"So I gave up. I simply walked out one day and a friend said to me then, 'I know you'll never work again.'"
Mr Cossey, then in his late 30s, bought a van with his wife and two children which he used to travel around the UK selling collector's items.
He said: "I was told I would only last six months but we travelled for three years. One of our children was just a baby and we put the cot between stacks of magazines in the van and we would all sleep in car parks.
"Then I decided to buy a shop in Norwich because it was the first thing I was passionate about. I wanted to start my own oasis of magic."
The Movie Shop has now been running for 34 years although Mr Cossey plans to retire in the near future.
He said: "I work six days a week and no one would work as hard as I do for the money I earn. I'm not losing money and I'm ticking over fine but it's not cost effective.
"I'm now shifting the business online and I'm in the process of building a website so I have more time for myself - but collectors can still buy the gems I'm known for."
Mr Cossey said he plans to spend his retirement travelling around Europe with his wife in their car.
He said: "I want to be able to do what I want to do. We like to travel spur of the moment which obviously I can't do at the moment working six days a week."
"I will be sad though when the time comes. Customers have already said that they will be devastated when I leave."
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