In a modern cinematic world littered with endless remakes, the resurrection of Kim’s video in New York is a reboot worth watching. Last Thursday, at the Alamo Drafthouse at 28 Liberty Street in Lower Manhattan, a scaled-down but still colorful version of the pioneering video store returned after what seemed like its demise seven and a half years ago. Alamo has already brought Vortex Video Stores in four locations, including Brooklyn, Raleigh, San Antonio and Los Angeles, using collections from defunct video libraries. But with an iconic name attached, this one is a little different.

Back in its thriving heyday of the late 1980s to mid-2000s, Kim’s Video was a haven for fans of the exotic, the obscure, and the weird. While Blockbuster was busy renting the latest Hollywood movies and some independent releases, Kim dug deeper into movies from around the world, both foreign and cult titles that weren’t readily available at most other outlets. sale, some even sold out. Exploitation rubs shoulders with art and essay, T&A rubs shoulders with the transgressive, the low budget mixed with the no-budget. With Kim, the taste was fortunately very relative, which aficionados of cult films can appreciate. As Kim’s Video founder Yongman Kim told attendees at the reopening party last Thursday, “The guiding philosophy behind it all has always been to combine unique cultures and backgrounds to come together and share.”

And yes, some of Kim’s employees were known to be suspicious in terms of their tastes and judge what you selected. Tim League, co-founder and executive chairman of the Alamo Drafthouse Channel, told attendees, “It’s important to realize what Kim’s video was and what it meant to so many people, to so many arrogant , punk-rock, surly, but awesome. and the creatives. It was their connection, it was their hub. This video store influenced so many filmmakers and created so much magic. It was just a feeling of community, and community is really what we’re trying to build at Alamo. When this opportunity presented itself to be a part of continuing the legacy of Kim’s Video, I was like, ‘Damn, let’s go “I didn’t really think too much about it. That’s probably good, because it was harder than I thought.

“From the start, I wanted to be different and have a collection that was different from all the other video libraries,” Kim told me at the event. “I was adding the foreign films – Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Eastern Bloc. The cult film was a very central collection from the start. It was very appropriate to start with, and then adding foreign films, especially films underground and independents. It was in the very early years, I would say the mid-1980s and the peak of the 1990s.”

From the beginning, I wanted to be different and have a collection that was different from all the other video libraries. I added foreign films – Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Eastern bloc. The cult film was a very central collection from the start.

—Yongman Kim

Kim’s video has been an inspiration to local residents, budding artists and celebrity clients like Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch, Chloë Sevigny and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Some of its employees would enjoy future success, including rockers Andrew WK and Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., as well as producers Alex Ross Perry and Todd Phillips. You can buy or rent thousands of different titles and also buy an all-region DVD player to watch the imports. Originally starting in the Kim-run dry cleaners in 1986, the first store arrived on Avenue A in 1987, and by the mid-90s there were four locations, including the revered Mondo Kim’s, which has eventually moved to St. Mark’s Place.

But New York’s gentrification and rising rents, along with the discount power of online retailers and tenants, led to the chain being phased out to a single, sales-focused First Avenue location in 2009. movies and albums. At that time, Mondo Kim’s rental collection of 55,000 titles was shipped to the small commune of Salemi, Sicily. Then-mayor Vittorio Sgarbi won a bid for it and planned to build a 3,000 square foot sanctuary for Kim and provide public access to their extensive back catalog (members of Kim n ‘being not charged), plus other ideas to use the collection. Then Kim’s last store closed in late summer 2014, leaving a gaping cultural hole in Manhattan. To make matters worse, the alleged good intentions of the allegedly corrupt and ultimately removed Salemi mayor led to the discovery that the collection had been left boxed and languishing in a dingy storage space – everyone’s worst nightmare. collector and curator.

Yongman Kim

Luckily, documentarian David Redmon visited this Italian city in 2017, saw the sad situation, and became determined to bring Kim’s Video collection home. He first contacted Yongman Kim who offered to help him, then connected with League. The trio coordinated with the current mayor of Salemi, Domenico Venuti, to retrieve the collection. It took time and resources, but the large inventory was returned last summer, and a dedicated Alamo team led by Nick Prueher, co-founder of the Found Footage Festival, is sorting and cataloging the collection, and cleaning up the collection. packaging for re-consumption. Venuti was also present at the reopening and made a few remarks to the crowd. Speaking through a translator, he expressed his joy at helping bring the collection back to New York. Additionally, he explained that there is an exhibit at the Salemi Museum dedicated to Kim’s video, and this summer they will be launching an annual film festival dedicated to screening selections from the collection.

“When this opportunity presented itself to be part of continuing the legacy of Kim’s Video, I thought, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ I haven’t really given it too much thought. That’s probably good, because it was harder than I thought.

— Tim League

Located on the lower level of the Alamo Drafthouse as you head into the theater, the new Kim’s Video, which takes up 160 square feet of space, currently features 20,000 of the original 55,000 titles (the rest are still being worked on) and brings back the glory days of DVDs and VHS. Rentals are free, but like your local library, late fees apply. You can also rent VHS and DVD players. It’s a smart move for the pioneering movie channel known for showing cult films beyond their mainstream fare, and also known for requiring customers not to speak through the films.

“I think Tim [League] will do a great job,” Kim says. “He’s also a businessman, so he knows how to make this whole operation sustainable. It must be durable. In terms of operation, I am not involved. It’s just Tim’s operation. But he adds that if anything changes or they need him, “I’m pretty sure I can play a part in supporting him.”

Alamo’s Tim League, Salemi Mayor Domenico Venuti, and Yongman Kim

The truth is that while streaming is ubiquitous in our digital culture, many moviegoers still love physical media. Companies like Shout! Factory, The Criterion Collection, Kino Lorber and Arrow Video cater to them. A man who clearly loves tapes and records, Kim still has his own library. “Among my private collection, I have a lot of original foreign films that I have watched,” Kim reveals. “Finally, I heard that the [Alamo] the team will digitize more for streaming. That will be great. Already a large part of the collection is rare. So this kind of mondo collection really appeals to the film community there.

When asked what his favorite kind of movie to watch was, Kim said he preferred college movies. “We have a very good collection of student films at Mondo,” he explains, always referring to the chain by its most well-known store name. Kim discusses cult filmmaker Nick Zedd, a former employee of Kim, and his short film police state which was shot in Super-8 a year before the Tompkins Square Park riot in the summer of 1988. In the short, a man is accused of being a junkie by the NYPD and arrested, leading to a conclusion horrible.

“Finally, I heard that the [Alamo] the team will digitize more for streaming. That will be great. Already a large part of the collection is rare. So this kind of mondo collection really appeals to the film community there.

—Yongman Kim

“It was his very independent underground film,” Kim recalled. “You won’t believe how many great student films he brought me. I took five or 10 minutes [films] together and made a collection of good-length independent films, like 60 Minutes. Martin Scorsese was a big fan at that time. He always sent his assistant to check these films. I can’t say how much he was inspired by it. But I’m sure a professional director has learned something from student films: very fresh ideas, very creative ideas.

For cult moviegoers, Kim’s revival is a welcome return. It’s packed with wild and wonderful titles from around the world and over the years. Despite the fact that streaming has become ubiquitous these days, there are still many people who prefer physical media and the joy of browsing and maybe meeting new people. Kim’s video wasn’t just a place you went shopping, she created a community, and she can do it again. Florida