Le Video, at 1231 9th Avenue between Irving and Lincoln -- and San Francisco's best video store since opening its doors in 1980 -- is on the verge of closing.
San Francisco is life, life is change, and that means San Francisco changes, especially the stuff that made it so cool when you arrived a decade or two ago. And when I arrived in 1994 to go to film school at SF State, Le Video was just about coolest thing I'd ever seen. (We laugh about the technology now, but the laserdisc selection just blew my mind.)
But that doesn't mean we can't fight the bad changes. And we should all fight to keep Le Video alive in one form or another.
On Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 3 a.m. -- the hour of the wolf, appropriately enough -- Le Video founder and owner Catherine Tchen posted this to the store's Facebook page:
SAD NEWS: Unless of a miracle, it looks like we'll be closing (rentals) by the end of April...We're still seeking a solution to keep the doors open but bottom line... we're and - so is now the owner, after 4.5 years of paying LV bills - broke! So we have to adjust our hours, rates & policies to give everyone a chance to redeem their prepaids... if not for the prepaids to be redeemed we would already be closed.
Now, there are a million opportunities for finger-pointing -- Netflix, Redbox, the Internet, the ever-shrinking number of parking spaces in the Inner Sunset, and of course the Google Bus is somehow responsible for all ills in 2014 San Francisco (darn you, the Google Bus!) -- but none of that really matters now. What matters is that we do what we can keep Le Video afloat in the short term.
Go rent or buy stuff. Seriously.
Notice how nice the weather is this week? Take advantage of it! Get over your fear of going west of Twin Peaks. Venture into the Inner Sunset, rent a bunch of videos, maybe have some tasty noms a few doors down at last year's Best Sushi Funhouse winner, hit the park, visit the penguins at the Cal Academy or get an electric-eel shock -- but, please, go to Le Video and rent things. Rent a bunch. Get 5 movies for $15, and you'll have 'em for a week, so you can wait until it starts raining again and don't have to feel guilty about not being in the sun. You'll find things there that you can't find anywhere else, and if Le Video closes for good, they'll be that much harder to find. Take it from someone who's tried, there are a lot of things that you just cannot find on the Internet, whether in the legal realms of streaming of the shadier corners of torrents.
Le Video's collection is one of the marvels of San Francisco, and the ultimate goal here is to keep the movies available to the public, but there needs to be an influx of customer bucks now.
Making things all the more dire is that the brick-and-mortar store itself, as it exists, is no longer tenable. Le Video's Kat Shucter explained it to me thusly:
Catherine is still hoping maybe someone will maybe take the downstairs and we take the balcony, but chances are they will want the whole space, but there is a little apartment-like office with a separate entrance. I am hoping we can at least move in there, if we can raise the money for her to not liquidate. We would need to remove all the cases essentially and just have the discs for now and the VHS in boxes. People wouldn't be able to browse the same way but we would have the same collection, at least.
If you've been looking for a sweet business location on Ninth Avenue between Irving and Lincoln, and you like the idea of having the new iteration of San Francisco's best video store above you -- or even, as Tchen has described in the form of "a movie lounge type of private club," though with the movies still available for rental -- then, by all means, get in touch with the relevant people.
But if leasing a storefront isn't quite within your means, please go and give Le Video some love in the form of money right now, which is our best shot that the collection will continue to be available into the future. They also hope to get a Kickstarter-y fundraiser up and running next week -- and this post will be updated to include it when that goes live -- but don't wait for that.
And I'd call dibs on the last few volumes of Shout! Factory's Mystery Science Theater 3000 box sets, but if someone else gets to them before me, that's okay, too. Just rent or buy something before it's too late.
Update, April 1: The fundraising site is live.