Disclosure: Birth.Movies.Death. is owned by the Alamo Drafthouse.
Video stores used to be an essential part of our cinema culture - corner hubs where you could rent the highest art or the trashiest sleaze while picking the brains of the knowledgeable film buffs who manned the counter. Those days are sadly gone in most cities, except the Alamo Drafthouse is looking to bring them back to Raleigh, North Carolina with its new location's free tape-slinging shop, Video Vortex.
You read that right: every single one of Video Vortex's nearly 75,000 titles can come home with you for zero dollars. One of the biggest collections on the entire planet - once part of San Francisco's famous Le Video - is going to be at the fingertips of the Raleigh Drafthouse community. Speaking about what Video Vortex is going to be for patrons, manager and VHS Culture Captain Josh Schafer says:
"For me, one of the most thrilling aspects of Video Vortex is the ability to connect with renters and cultivate diverse exchange about film culture. Making personal connections and offering recommendations through a knowledgeable and passionate staff, it’s something that slays an algorithm any day. Being able to continue the age-old video-store tradition of fostering a movie-loving community is going to be a really fun, exciting and special experience for everyone involved.”
Now, come with Josh on a quick virtual tour of the site, which looks to be a true shrine to the magnetic tape shoppes of old:
Video Vortex's archive will specialize in foreign language titles, documentaries, and independent films. Co-signing on Josh’s enthusiasm is fellow manager (and former Le Video curator) Kat Shuchter:
“Video Vortex represents a veritable cornucopia of thousands of celebrated gems and unsung obscurities from the world of foreign, independent, classic, cult, documentary, and animated movies and TV shows spanning the entire life of the medium. This collection includes the best, worst, and weirdest of cinema from dozens of countries across the globe, including hundreds of complete catalogs of film’s greatest auteurs. Whether you’re an action junky, a horror-hound, a Francophile, or in search of some insane oddities, Video Vortex will offer you an unparalleled selection, for free.”
Along with this insane collection, Video Vortex is also going to offer Raleigh cinephiles:
- VCRs and blu-ray players available for rent.
- Crowlers (canned growlers) available to take home any of the 40-plus local draft beers along with your free movies
- A selection of board games curated by the Mondo game team, available for purchase and for free play in the beer garden or patio.
- Mondo game, toy, poster and music release parties.
- A grab-and-go selection of bombers and six-packs of local and hard-to-find beers.
- Video-store themed cocktails, milkshakes and non-alcoholic drinks designed by Alamo Raleigh beverage director Jason McCoon.
Speaking of "video-store themed", here's a look at the construction on those amazing, giant-sized VHS cases. These things are massive!
But, wait - there's more: let's take a look at some of the posters Video Vortex will feature in its poster archive:
In addition to all of the above, Video Vortex will also become home to VHStival: an annual VHS festival highlighting the best treasures of VHS-only releases, as well as a VHS tape-trading convention. The first event is scheduled for the weekend of October 27th, and sounds unmissable if you're a local tapehead.
Look, speaking as a current video store manager and former Carolina resident - who went to college within spitting distance of Raleigh - I can't express how excited I am to see Josh, Kat, and the Alamo Drafthouse keeping this culture alive. What was once one of the most vital components of film fandom has been sadly lost to dreaded Redboxes and the bullshit buffering of streaming services. Josh and Kat are true warriors, looking to keep the dream alive in Raleigh, and I can't wait to make the journey and take a tour when Video Vortex finally opens later this year, along with the Raleigh Drafthouse.
Keep it up guys, you're doing the very best work. In the meantime, the rest of you can keep an eye on the shop's official site for further updates.