It’s the return of a video legend.
With Blockbuster already a memory in the late 2000s, Kim’s Video retail store was the East Village’s last physical and cinematic media bastion where Lower Manhattanites could browse a tantalizing selection of VHS tapes and DVDs. More than just a video outlet, it was a cultural icon for many who spent weekends browsing its extensive catalog and discussing favorite movies with new friends, before heading home with a pizza for a movie night.
In 2014, Kim’s Video last slot joined its peers in falling victim to the all-powerful streaming service, marking the end of an East Village icon. However, almost a decade later, after an international trip, the collection is back and available for free rental.
On the lower level of the Alamo Drafthouse theater at 28 Liberty Street, Nick Prueher stood surrounded by VHS tapes, DVDs, classic movie posters and a fuchsia sign that read “Kim’s Video.” Prueher helped bring the collection back to the area and preserve it for the public.
“I was a client of Kim’s when I first moved to New York in the late 90s. I found Kim’s video and was blown away,” Prueher said, recalling how he had browsed the shelves once.
After the initial shutdown, the story of Kim’s video collection could be turned into a movie itself. According to Prueher, the vast media library could only be taken with the promise that it would be accessible to the public, who sent him on a trip to Italy.
“The founder was looking for a permanent home and his stipulation was that the collection could not be separated. He [Kim] cared what happened to that. It wasn’t just a bunch of plastic,” Prueher said. “So he got an offer from a town called Salemi in Sicily. And they said they would take the collection, and everything was shipped over there. And it was supposed to be in public view and accessible to all of them, but within a year, the mayor who was running the project, alleged mafia charges and was ousted from office. It’s like a movie.
With the collection again without a home, the Alamo Drafthouse cinema acquired the large stock and, with the help of Prueher, began to organize an exhibition featuring hundreds of DVDs and VHS tapes, but it is not a a simple visual presentation of covers and boxes. This new iteration of Kim’s Video also rents the movies and even VCRs for free. Due to such a large catalog, films will be scoured to ensure there is always something new to discover.
Nestled among imagery on classic movie posters and iconic movie replicas such as Ghostbusters’ Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, but more than aesthetics, Prueher says there’s a chance to uncover media that can’t be found nowhere else. Some of the tapes have never been transferred to DVD or downloaded online, making this collection one of the last places they can be found.
“You can watch almost anything on your phone now. To find something that can’t be found, something that’s not available anywhere else. It’s almost more tempting, more enticing. So I think that’s really the draw here. And it’s a curated collection. I mean, we certainly tried to honor Kim’s legacy with all genres and there’s 461 different genres that are represented here said Prueher.
Starting May 22 at 7:30 p.m., Prueher will host a talk while presenting various clips from the collection in a podcast style. Tickets can be purchased online.
“It’s just a good place to hang out. You can grab a beer upstairs, take it down, browse the collection and take something home,” Prueher said.