Movies for commercial real estate nerds

Business Manager, Stuart Commercial Inc., Sales Associate, ICR Commercial Real Estate
  • Oct. 16, 2020

After a hard day of knocking on doors and grinding out deals, how do commercial real estate agents relax? By sitting down and watching films about our industry like the nerds we are.

Or is that just me?

Here are a few I recommend checking out . . .

There’s no Place Like This Place, Anyplace

“Funny thing about our store, we seem to break all the rules of good business. But the customers seem to love it.” 75 minutes, streaming on CBC Gem  (2020) Trailer

This new documentary reflects on the sale of Toronto’s Honest Ed’s department store and the surrounding properties known as Mirvish Village. Named after owner Ed Mirvish, Honest Ed’s opened in 1948 and closed at the end of 2016.

IMAGE: A screengrab from the trailer for the Ed Mirvish / Honest Ed's documentary There's No Place Like This, Anyplace.

A screengrab from the trailer for the Ed Mirvish / Honest Ed’s documentary There’s No Place Like This, Anyplace.

The store was infamous for marketing stunts and was grossing around $14 million annually by 1968.

Mirvish started buying up real estate around the department store for expansion, while offering affordable commercial and residential rentals to the arts community.

By the mid-’90s, however, Honest Ed’s was becoming a retail victim to Walmart and the entry of other big-box retailers into the market.

After Mirvish’s passing in 2007, his son took over operations and ultimately sold the real estate to a Vancouver developer. The sale of the store and surrounding properties was not originally met with praise.

While some tenants found new homes, many businesses in Mirvish Village were unable to find comparable lease rates and ultimately ended up shuttering their doors.

It’s no surprise that in one of North America’s fastest-growing cities, progress can often mean the displacement of one population for another. It’s not often that emotion is tied to commercial real estate, but this documentary really puts that into perspective.

The Founder

“You’re not in the burger business, you’re in the real estate business.” 115 minutes, streaming on Netflix (2016) Trailer

This fictionalized tale explains the birth of the McDonald’s franchise restaurant empire.

Ray Kroc, played by Michael Keaton, credited himself with taking the McDonald brothers’ burger stand and growing it into the model we see today.

I won’t give the plot away, but let’s just say Kroc figures out what many of us know: sometimes it’s better being the landlord than the tenant.

The movie takes a few liberties and of course tightens the actual timeline, but for the most part it’s fairly factual.

Fun fact: When Ray Kroc died at the age of 81 in 1984, he was worth $200 million. The McDonald brothers did not see any of the real McDonald’s wealth, as Kroc bought them out of their pittance shares in 1961.

Glengarry Glen Ross

“Coffee is for closers.” 96 minutes, streaming on YouTube and Apple TV (1992) Trailer

This movie is adapted from a David Mamet play and follows real estate agents using dubious sales tactics to sell undesirable land for development. Jack Lemmon plays the main character, Shelley (The Machine) Levene.

Every fabled brokerage has a version of The Machine: a top producer down on his luck, his rising star now faded.

The Machine is working against the stacks. Not only is he selling a sub-standard opportunity, but he also believes management no longer has his back.

The film offers insight into the ego and competition that is truly part of our environment. While the movie is an exaggerated version of daily real estate duties, I think it should be required viewing for those coming into the industry.

As well, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand my frustration ICR has yet to offer up a Cadillac El Dorado as part of a sales competition.

Honourable mentions

Class Action Park – 90 minutes, streaming on Crave (2020) Trailer

I love talking about this movie. The most interesting real estate takeaway is how the land lease of the park evolves into insurance fraud.

The Queen of Versailles – 100 minutes, streaming on YouTube (2012) Trailer

This documentary follows timeshare real estate tycoon David Siegel during the fallout of the 2008 recession as he and his wife Jackie try to build a 90,000-square-foot super-mansion. We witness Siegel orchestrating a juggling act to keep all his real estate balls in the air.

I’m always looking for suggestions, did I miss your favourite commercial real estate-related flick?

I am a gal of all trades and wear a few hats at my current job though nothing quite as esteemed as my 1996 Unity Western Days Rodeo Queen crowned…

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I am a gal of all trades and wear a few hats at my current job though nothing quite as esteemed as my 1996 Unity Western Days Rodeo Queen crowned…

Read more

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