We told you a few weeks ago that Le Video, San Francisco's most robust video store since 1980, is on the verge of closure, and their collection of approximately 80,000 titles may disappear.
The first step to keeping any business alive is of course to give it your business (and please keep doing that in the short-term!), but Le Video needs a bit more cash in order to evolve into a sustainable model, and that's where their Indiegogo campaign comes in.
From the campaign page, here are the stated goals for the Le Video campaign:
- Move upstairs into a new space that's better designed to help you discover new films and also, find just what you are looking for
- Remodel our downstairs space to bring in a co-tenant that's local, community oriented, independent and like-minded
- Complete the design of our new database and launch our new website making our collection searchable online (phase 1)
- Introduce small curated screenings
- Resume purchasing films from all over the World!
Even in the best possible scenario, the physical presence of Le Video will change, but that's okay. The ultimate goal of this project is to keep Le Video's vast collection available to the public.
Now, there's some confusion as to why anyone would want to keep a video store alive in this era of high-speed-on-demand interwebs. When we originally reported on the Le Video crisis a few weeks ago, one wag responded on Facebook, "Did you fight for the Edsel as well?" Oooh, zing! See what he did there? It's because the Edsel is the go-to metaphor for a failed, non-starting product -- just like video stores, right?
Well, no. That clever jibe ignores that video stores had a good long run since they first started appearing in the late 1970s -- again, Le Video in particular opened in 1980 -- and that what's ultimately given them the appearance of obsolescence is not even so much the ascendance of the Internet and streaming video as it is the well-deserved failure of the Blockbuster and Hollywood Video model. Speaking as someone who worked for a local-Fresno video store called the Video Zone that got consumed by Hollywood Video in 1994, I shed no tears when Hollywood Video finally collapsed. (Here's how evil Hollywood was: when they bought us out, they announced that they were going to put a large chunk of the Video Zone's stock -- including a great many titles that were already rare in 1994, let alone 2014 -- into storage to make room for newer, blander movies.)
If anything, the closest analog to the Edsel -- which was a hiccup in what was at the time a strong industry -- would be otherwise worthy formats like Betamax or DiscoVision that failed to connect with the public.
Here's what makes it so damn important to keep Le Video in existence: they have tens of thousands of titles that are not available on the Internet, streaming or otherwise, and may never be. (Relying on streaming video also puts a hell of a lot of faith in having a reliable internet connection, a faith which is seldom rewarded.) What's more, as Netflix continues to try to phase out their disc service -- come to think of it, the true Edsel of home video was Qwikster -- the great DVD extras that people like me love so much will cease to be available. That's already been happening for a while, as frickin' Netflix started sending out movie-only DVDs a couple years ago, and it's a great loss.
While it's true that they're starting to experiment with adding commentaries to their original content, the chances of Netflix making previously existing commentaries and extras available are roughly nil. And, for as much fun as the movies are by themselves, you have not lived until you've heard Kurt Russell and John Carpenter's hilarious commentary on Escape from New York, or Trey Parker and Matt Stone with friends getting increasingly drunk on the commentary for Cannibal: The Musical.
So, please, support Le Video by contributing to their Indiegogo campaign and renting movies. Hey, have I recommended the commentaries on Escape from New York and Cannibal: The Musical? It's great stuff. Check it out.