One day in December, only a few blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, skipping the sun and descending the escalators that lead down to the bowels of a skyscraper, Skip Elsheimer suddenly stopped scouring the sea of moldy, mismatched boxes to marvel at a discovery. held it in dust-covered hands. It was a VHS tape of “Apocalypse Pooh”.
For an outside observer, the video is of no great importance. You can find “Apocalypse Pooh” on YouTube: an early example of a video A mash-up created in the late 1980s that gives the sound of “Apocalypse Now” on top of the Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons. For Elsheimer, however, the find brought back a formative memory: “Apocalypse Pooh” was one of the movies he rented when he made his debut on Kim’s Video & Music while visiting the East Village in 1993.
“It’s been a cycle,” Elsheimer thought to himself.
Ask a specific slice of New Yorker or movie buff the following: Kim’s Video and Music, and you’ll be enchanted by the details that suffocate the senses: shot in an unfamiliar language, with no subtitles (who needs them?); image of hand-drawn DVD covers with staff comments scribbling instead of missing, possibly stolen boxes (“’Kung Fu Cock Fighter’, come on, rent that thing!”); The feeling of fingertip wandering through the thorns of a hundred VHS tapes, looking for one but finding many.
What is this experience in part? Elsheimer Helped recreate it. He’s one of several video enthusiasts working with national chain Alamo Drafthouse on an unlikely project: On Thursday, the company cut the ribbon for a revitalized version of Kim’s Video at the Lower Manhattan theater. The store was originally part of the Kim’s Video flagship store known as Mondo Kim’s in St. It will offer for rent approximately 20,000 physical films taken from a collection packaged after its closure at Marks Place. Rentals will be free of charge (delay fees!), although late fees will apply.
The store is part of Alamo’s long-standing strategy to transform its theaters into hangout spaces that offer more physical experiences than streaming services. The chain initially differed from its competitors with similar types of upscale geekery, including gourmet burgers, recliners, and memorabilia-filled lobbies. But now that going to the movies has turned into wars of streaming thousands of movies with a click of the trackpad, what could a video store mean in 2022? Who leaves their couch to go to a store to browse physical objects, not to mention returning to return them? Who has a VCR? (Okay, the Alamo team has fixed this last problem: Players can be hired.)
HIRE Idea It is a passion project for Tim League, the founder of Alamo. The league has purchased the contents of seven shuttered shops so far. Video In San Francisco and Vulcan Video in Austin, Texas, “I think the best thing about video store collections is that they’re curated by 20, 30 years of obsessive people,” he explained.
The league has been behind similar projects at Alamo theaters in many other cities, starting with the project in Raleigh, NC, which first gave it and its crews a taste of the challenges of reviving old rental movies. (“There’s a little bit of that collection, you know, damp“said.)
But “we always knew the white whale was this crazy Mondo Kim’s video collection,” League said.
That’s because, Elsheimer later added, “it’s a rare, big, amazing thing — but it’s also a white whale because it’s a giant pain in the ass.”
The high reputation of Kim’s collection may be a product of its history as well as its content. Yongman Kim, founder of Kim’s Video & Music, started out in 1987 with a single store on Avenue A in the East Village. Their business turned into a small chain; its glorious days lasted until the mid-2000s. Staff members include filmmakers Alex Ross Perry (“Every Smell”) and Todd Phillips (“Joker”) and Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. There were other creative people like The chain has gained a reputation as a haven for the work of downtown New York weirdos and far-flung geniuses, and the home of student films shelved alongside budget art and blockbusters.
“The core concept of Kim’s video,” said Kim, “was to connect from culture to culture.”
Mondo Kim closed in 2009; strangely, well chronicled Twist, this store’s cassette and DVD collection was shipped to Salemi, a historic town in Sicily. Plans were made to open a public archive and scanning operation. as a tourist destination. Stocks of other Kim’s stores were donated to colleges. The final location was shuttered in 2014.
Inventory in Italy has earned legendary status among video collectors. The plans in Salemi never materialized. There were rumors of missing tapes, forgotten boxes, and perhaps worst of all, mold. in 2017 David Redmon, a documentarian (“Girl Model”) and former Kim’s Video regular visit Salemi. The films – these enormous subjects of passion and intrigue – were in storage.
“Seeing them sitting untouched in this remote building really upset me a bit,” he said.
Redmon began work on bringing the collection back to the United States. Why was he so determined? “I don’t have a logical answer,” Redmon said. (Knowingly or unknowingly, he was repeating Melville’s Captain Ahab: “All my means are logical, my aim and my purpose is crazy.”) He contacted Kim, who said he would help bring the collection back if Redmon found a home. Eventually, Redmon was affiliated with the League. At the end of last summer, videos were crossing the Atlantic.
About 550 boxes arrived at the Alamo in Lower Manhattan. League has hired co-founder Nick Prueher. Found Film Festivalleading the task of sorting out the boxes and figuring out how to transform stacks of movies into a functioning rental operation.
“It was actually figuring out how to run a video store in 2022,” Prueher said. said.
The difficulties were immediately apparent. Most VHS and DVD safes are locked with legacy security devices designed to prevent theft. After some trial and error (“I cut myself with a screwdriver trying to open them”), Prueher found a company outside of Los Angeles that had the magnetic devices needed to deactivate the locks. Like many video stores, Kim kept the actual movies behind the counter; The crates, which were works of art, were empty. This meant that most of the tens of thousands of movies and cases had to be shuffled and rematched.
Prueher led a team of five, each of whom experienced both the magic and daring of the collection. Roodi Langs, who was once Kim’s client, recalled finding organic matter in some boxes—including what looked like dried spider eggs: “At one point they were invaded by something living.” Sabrina McDonald, who moved to New York just before the pandemic and never visited Kim’s, enjoyed the tactile experience of using the movies and reading the labels on the boxes. “I discovered a new love of silent film while doing this project,” McDonald said.
FOR ELSHEIMERFlipping the covers, perusing the artwork, and reading the back of the boxes is an essential part — perhaps — of a video store visit.
“If people can experience it and experience what it’s like to go to Kim in a way, that’s a feat,” he said. “If they rent something, that’s great. If they get Kim’s t-shirt or sticker, that’s great.”
But at Alamo’s rental operation in Raleigh, Elsheimer said many customer visits will begin and end with screening. “They would grab a beer and just browse,” he said. “There’s something about it that feels really good. It tickles your brain.”
The idea that browsing is the main event shows the fundamental difference between the new Kim’s Video project and the original video store idea. In VHS’s heyday, the home viewing experience was essential. You would stop at the store after you bought a pizza. Or you could throw a coat over your pajamas and take a quick trip to shoot a video. You may spend a little, perhaps longer than you expect, scanning the shelves, unsure of what to decide. But for most people, the purpose was not the store; was to hang out at home.
At the Alamo, the rental operation aims to be an experience that is a bigger part of going to the movies. And as most stores are disappearing—with the exception of some of the big, reputable stores like Movie Madness in Portland, Ore. and Scarecrow Video in Seattle—this may be the more common way video stores are understood by modern audiences, especially younger generations who never visit the stores. .
For example, Vidiots FoundationA nonprofit that emerged from a longstanding video store of the same name in Los Angeles is in the process of building a similar operation with a theater-affiliated rental shop. (The organization also mentioned hosting Kim’s collection at one point.) Maggie Mackay, general manager of Vidiots, said combining rental operations and theaters could transform these businesses into something more than the sum of their parts: Community spaces with potential are a place where digital services are less equipped. way, to serve as an incubator for intense fandom.
“I don’t think streaming services are enough as a tool to build fans – like really deep fans – from young people,” Mackay said. “You have to create super fans out of them. You have to make them fall in love with the environment.”
“You have something completely new — and I think it’s something that can reinvigorate film culture when it’s so desperately needed to revive it,” said Mackay with a movie-video rental store.
Revival may also be necessary for the Alamo: Company Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection early last year, when the movie industry was hit hard by the pandemic. it went out of bankruptcy last summer. A new experience like Kim’s collection can be a tool to draw viewers back.
JUST A FEW DAYS BEFORE WHO RAISE would open, League, Elsheimer, and Prueher stood in one of the lobbies of downtown Alamo discussing how to organize the rental space. There was a taste of sawdust in the air: The League itself was cutting wooden shelves, each measuring to the depth of a VHS tape. On the floor, a vinyl banner modeled after an awning from one of the original Kim’s stores was waiting to hang. Prueher noted that a graphic design meeting was held on whether or not to poop on birds.
The theater was open; movies were shown. While the band was working, music started playing in the lobby. It was impossible not to be amused when the playlist reached the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna,” and Paul McCartney said: “Who gets the money when you pay the rent?” The scene seemed to speak to the fascinating improbability and messiness of all the effort, and perhaps to the challenges theaters face in 2022.
This reminded me of a watery weekday visit a few weeks ago in February, in a warm back room, where Prueher and his friends were deep in the film sorting process.
That day, progress had been made on the F’s: “Flight of Phoenix” (2004) was next to “Flight Plan” (2005) was next to “Flying Guillotine, Part II” (1978). The room shook as the group worked. On the other side of the wall, Theater No. Explosive bass tones were coming from the 7.
From the audition room, a sound was heard and felt, like the muffled thud of a giant’s footsteps.