Movies for commercial real estate nerds

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 it 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 surrounding properties known as Mirvish Village.

Named after owner Ed Mirvish, Honest Ed’s opened in 1948 and closed at the end of 2016.

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 Honest Ed’s had become a retail victim to Walmart and other big-box retailers’ entry into the market.

After Mirvish’ 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 found new homes, many businesses in the 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 McDonalds 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 McDonalds 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 up 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 that 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 SF super mansion. We witness Siegel play 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?

Posted by Kelly Macsymic


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  1. ooh, good list. Looking forward to seeing the Honest Ed’s doc on CBC. I would like to add another suggestion, and it’s based on real events, called The Banker. It’s available right now on Apple TV+ ( )

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