Transcript of the story

If you’re tired of binging on everything on Netflix, a new video store in New York City has some gems you won’t find anywhere else.

Kim’s Video, a flagship New York video rental chain closed since 2009, is back in business in the lobby of an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.

It features thousands of items from Kim’s original collection of cult, foreign, student, homemade and otherwise esoteric films, all on DVD and VHS. Movies can be borrowed for free, and guests can rent a DVD player or VCR for a fee.

Nick Prueher, the co-founder of the Found Footage Festival, led the restoration and conservation of Kim’s collection for Alamo. Among the treasures he unearthed was an introductory video for the 90s cult hit Heaven’s Gate, the controversial horror-comedy I bought a vampire motorcycleand a VHS copy of actress Alyssa Milano Teen Steamer workout video.

“It was the job I was born to do,” Prueher said. As it happens guest host Dave Seglins. “It was like an archaeological dig. You know, you opened a box and, just, you couldn’t wait to see what was inside.”

A paradise for movie buffs, filmmakers and artists

The original Kim’s Video & Music franchise holds a special place in the hearts of moviegoers and New Yorkers, especially Mondo Kim’s, its flagship store in the East Village.

“Those bright yellow, garish shelves were just walls and walls of DVDs and VHS tapes in hyper-specific categories,” Prueher said. “There would be a director you never heard of and there would be an entire wall of their movies. You could just get some film training there in a few months.”

You have gained a lot of comfort with Netflix, streaming and YouTube. But you lost a lot of those films that fell through the cracks. – Nick Prueher, Found Footage Festival Co-Founder– Nick Prueher, co-founder of the Found Footage Festival

Several now famous filmmakers and artists have worked or frequented Mondo’s.

“There is a famous story about [director] Quentin Tarantino showed up and Kim’s employees were so snobby he couldn’t remember his membership numbers, so they wouldn’t let him rent,” Prueher said. where Kim’s video was.”

The store was owned by Yongman Kim, an immigrant from South Korea, who started renting Korean videos in the 1980s at his dry cleaning store in Manhattan.

It quickly became a haven for moviegoers and other types of creators, who would recommend new movies to Kim. As his collection grew, he expanded to multiple locations around the city.

In 2009, with the rise of digital streaming services, Kim gave in to what he calls “brutal digital capitalism” and closed his stores.

He donated much of his videos to universities. But he was particularly picky about where to send his collection of Mondo Kim, insisting that any bidder guaranteed adequate storage space and promised to update the collection and make it available to the public.

He thought he had struck gold when he received an offer from the town of Salemi in Sicily, which met all three criteria. The mayor at the time, Vittorio Sgarbi, himself curator of Italian art, seemed passionate about the project.

But Sgarbi was ousted in 2012 amid a mafia scandal, and the new administration, Kim says, was less enthusiastic. His collection ended up sitting in storage for over a decade.

A view inside Kim’s new video, in the lobby of an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in New York City. (Alamo treatment)

In 2017, with the help of documentary filmmaker David Redmon, Kim began the long bureaucratic process of bringing the collection back to New York — and eventually to the Alamo Drafthouse.

Kim described the grand opening of the new store last week as the culmination of a long odyssey.

“Kim’s Video is not just a rental place. Kim’s Video was a gathering place [where people] can share their ideas. And often they inspire each other to create or recreate something else. It could be in a film or music format or some other art,” Kim said. As it happens.

He says it’s his “personal wish” that the new boutique recapture that feeling.

Why open a video store in 2022?

While getting into the video rental market might seem like a bizarre strategy in the age of digital streaming, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League says that by opening up shop in an existing theater space, he there is very little overhead.

“For us, it’s more about the brand than providing a service to our customers,” League said. “It’s fun and unique and it’s a testament to our passion for movies.”

This isn’t Alamo’s first foray into the video rental market. The company opened its first video store in Raleigh, North Carolina in 2017, and League says it rents between 1,500 and 1,600 videos per month.

It has since opened stores in its theaters in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Brooklyn. But League says Kim’s opening video was particularly special.

“It had a deep collection,” he said. “It was a movie buff’s dream.”

Preserving the past

Prueher says he found lots of hidden gems and surprises while sorting through the collection – including, he says, “lots of spider eggs” tucked inside the blankets.

“One thing I loved was that every time a cover went missing, the employees had a lot of downtime and drew their own covers,” he said.

“So I found the DVD cover for Ingmar Bergman’s movie cover Wild strawberries – you know, a very serious drama. But the clerk just decided to draw a bunch of wild strawberries with mohawks and puke and, you know, drink booze.”

Some of the films in the Mondo Kim collection feature covers hand-drawn by store staff. (Submitted by Nick Prueher)

This is exactly the kind of thing he is passionate about preserving.

“You gained convenience with Netflix, streaming, and YouTube. But you lost a lot of those movies that fell through the cracks,” he said.

“It’s the obscure things that I think more and more people are looking for. Now that everything is within reach, the things that aren’t are even more sought after.”


Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Nick Prueher conducted by Kate McGillivray.