By MICHAEL ABATEMARCO, Santa Fe New Mexican
SANTA FE, NM (AP) – Checkout chatter is muffled by a newly installed plexiglass barrier, now standard in many retail stores. It’s hard to say what Lisa Harris and her client are saying.
“What was the name of this actress who played in Woman on the Run?
“Ann Sheridan,” Harris replies.
Or something like that. No matter. You’ve moved on to F: Flatliners, The Fly, The Fog, Forbidden Planet.
Simply browsing a bona fide video rental store is a pleasure you can find in very few places in America these days. Tune in to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and a host of other streaming services, and you’ll see many of the same popular titles that in the not-so-distant past lined the walls of video store chains like Blockbuster. But these stores have never been adapted to the demanding tastes of true filmmakers.
4D man? Nope. And reaching out and holding the DVD case in your hand, turning it over to read the description, is a diversion that cannot be reproduced virtually.
America’s taste for movies has not changed. How we look at them a. Santa Fe is one of the few places where you can spend an afternoon immersed among the racks, looking for that title, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.
Now the Gs: Galaxy of Terror, Gattaca, Ghosts of Mars. Rows of films are stacked horizontally on top of vertical rows of other films in a maze of shelves, with many nooks and crannies.
The video library is something sacred. It is a place where moviegoers go to commune and awaken the imagination and the soul.
“It’s a library, damn it,” says Kit Baum, a long-time customer. “They don’t have the Dewey Decimal system, or whatever, but that doesn’t matter. Lisa and her husband have such encyclopedic knowledge.
And it’s the only video rental store in town and appears to be the oldest in the country. And there are thousands of titles, even tens of thousands. He celebrated his 40th birthday on August 9.
“I’m not really computer proficient, as you may know since I don’t have one at the store,” says Harris, who co-owns the video library with her husband, Casey St. Charnez. “But I’ve asked people who are good with computers, and no one has been able to come up with anything older. There’s a place in Ohio that says they’re the oldest, but they opened in ’82. “
Louisiana-born Harris and St. Charnez went through the transition from rental Betamax machines to VHS machines and VHS tapes (which they still rent) to DVDs and Blu-rays, and even survived a temporary shutdown. following the coronavirus pandemic.
“If you had told me when I first opened the store that I would always do this, I would have been like ‘my whole life? “” Harris says of the store, which some affectionately call “the Vid.” “Now it’s so funny, here at this end, to try to maneuver the waters and stay in there. “
In Search of Mr. Goodbar (1977), Hearts of Fire (1987) and Tom Waits’ concert documentary Big Time (1988). None are on DVD, but Video Library has them on VHS, along with many other films that have not yet been released on DVD. Unsurprisingly, many Vid customers kept their VHS players, while the rest of us handed them over to Goodwill.
“You’d be amazed to see what didn’t come out on DVD,” says St. Charnez.
In the early 1980s, a sister of a Harris friend started one of the country’s first video rental companies in Salt Lake City, Utah. Harris and St. Charnez, Ph.D. in the cinema and is a former critic for Pasatiempo, are longtime moviegoers.
“This was the first time we’ve heard of movie rentals,” Harris says of the Salt Lake store. “We thought, ‘If we don’t do that, it’s going to be the ones in front of the counter and they won’t be storing the things we want to see. “
The couple’s first store was located at Cerrillos Road and St. Francis Drive. Harris remembers opening day. People were knocking on the door. The idea of being able to take a movie home was new, but it wasn’t long before the store took off – they rented the machines as well.
“They came in those little suitcases, and you had to teach them how to hook it up to their TV,” she says.
They opened a larger store on Cerrillos in 1985, and at the height of the video rental craze, they operated several stores. But the back and forth from store to store was too much for Harris. In 1993, they moved to one location on Marcy Street, which they kept until the loss of their lease in 2014.
Then came a final move to the Harvey Center on Paseo de Peralta, where they’re open from noon to 6 p.m. Friday through Monday.
Video Library rents hundreds of foreign titles – from Russia, China, Great Britain, Japan, Eastern Europe, Germany, etc. – as well as popular American titles, documentaries, cult movies and classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
You might not find 30 copies of Avengers: Endgame (2019), but they stock more than one copy of the camp classic Flash Gordon (1980). (In fact, when Harris and St. Charnez got married on air by local radio personality Honey Harris in 2012, they chose Queen’s Flash Gordon theme as their wedding song.)
The latest best video store and the era of the pandemic
In 2018, streaming entertainment wreaked havoc on the video library and prompted Harris and St. Charnez to create a GoFundMe page, which is still active (https://gofund.me/6d57a33a). Although they don’t describe the goal on the page, an August 2019 Harris post states: “Thanks to our many supporters, the Vid has now lasted 8 months longer than we expected.” Before that, she thought reaching her 38th birthday was “the most unlikely of possibilities.”
So far, they’ve raised over $ 17,500 of a goal of $ 25,000.
Then came the pandemic, and the Vid was forced to shut down.
“Before even reopening, people who knew how to reach me left me messages. “Just put anything in a bag and hang it on the back door. I take it.'”
Harris accepted them on request, but only after the governor authorized partial reopenings, and she sanitized all items before and when they returned.
The video library reopened with modified hours in June 2020. But now it’s only Harris in the store. St. Charnez is the buyer – or better, the curator.
“I worked as a video editor for Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide from 1986 to 2015,” says St. Charnez. “There was something like 20,000 titles. My job was to assess what had been broadcast on the home media. I was on all the mailing lists and got a lot of PR stuff.
When the book ran out, St. Charnez adapted its research tools for the benefit of its clients.
“It’s very helpful for the Vid for me to have all this knowledge about maltin,” he says.
Harris and St. Charnez know that the video library is now an anachronism. Maybe it’s endured because Santa Fe is a city of cinema and a city of film production. Or something else.
“We never felt we had competition,” says St. Charnez.
For many customers, it’s more than that.
“These are the people,” says Harris. “In the video library, I sometimes think that the films are secondary. This is the conversation that continues.
Baum, a veteran Vid fan, said, “What I love about the video library is the personal contact, and not just with Lisa or Casey, but everyone there.”
And he compares it to independent bookstores run by people who knew the stock and its history like it was second nature.
“I could come in and say, ‘OK, Clint, what am I looking at? Nowadays, having a personal touch proves again and again that there is nothing like human touch. Ask anyone who has been there in the past 20 years and they will say the same. They like people.
But can it really continue to stem the tide of hundreds of channels showing thousands of movies and TV around the clock?
“The video library is like the Windmill Theater during the London Blitz,” says St. Charnez. “It was the theater that was featured in Tonight and Every Night with Rita Hayworth and Mrs. Henderson Presents. It was famous because it was the only theater that just didn’t close no matter what.
“No matter what happens, and no matter how badly the bombs may drop, we still have a good audience base, and we kind of owe them to stay open so they have a place to go, like they did in the old days. “
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