With 22,000 DVDs to choose from, Videodrome is an oasis for film aficionados in an all-streaming era
The slightly psychedelic bald head and movie-reel eyeballs painted on an exterior wall, the neon “We Rent Movies” sign and the bright red movie poster of “Blow Up,” a film from 1966, might mislead anyone passing by Videodrome into thinking this store at the corner of N. Highland and North avenues is a dusty relic of a by-gone era.
A video era, that is—one in which the weekend kicked off by wandering a rental store’s aisles trying to find a movie everyone could agree on watching. One where a videotape was viewed on a VCR, and customers were chided to be kind and rewind before returning their selections.
So much for first impressions. Step through the double doors of this 18-year-old Poncey-Highland shop, and it’s immediately clear: No videotape here. Instead, visitors are surrounded by shelves several tiers high packed with Blu-ray and DVD discs that comprise an astonishing collection of more than 22,000 titles. Missed Michael Moore’s last documentary? Want to see “The Lobster” in your living room? Fancy a French-language film for a Friday night? It’s all here.
Despite the current craze for streaming and online viewing, Videodrome has no shortage of customers willing to pay $4 for three nights of entertainment. Owner and Cabbagetown resident Matthew Booth has been catering to them since 1998, when he and a partner took over an old framing shop and got into the rental business. The partner moved on after three years, but Booth has kept going, successfully making the shift from tape to DVD and steadily increasing the selections.
“Back then, it was cheap to open this kind of store,” he recalls. “I worked in another video store and saved up to open this one. And I ran it like a corporation: I got to know the people in the neighborhood, the different clientele, and what they wanted.”
During the days of “Ghostbusters” (the 1984 original) and “Die Hard,” Booth worked at a Kroger video counter before heading off to UGA, where his enthusiasm for movies blossomed. He fell hard for foreign films, a passion reflected in his store’s selection.
“When we started, we had a lot of foreign and independent films— documentary, art-house styles,” he says. “We still do, and we’ve added a big selection of Japanese animation, Asian and Italian horror, Hong Kong movies—fringe genres that were just taking off and were less mainstream.”
While having those selections is one of the reasons customers patronize the store, just as many come in for the newest releases, the classic they overlooked or something that’s just not available online.
“We definitely have the non-technical crowd and a younger crowd that can’t afford Comcast; it’s cheaper to come to us,” Booth says. “But we also have a high-functioning movie crowd not satisfied by streaming because they can’t get what they want. A lot of people want to see all the other stuff—director commentary, behind the scene extras—you don’t get online. The core of our customers is people who live close by and come here because we’re convenient.”
And with almost 20 years in the business, Booth has established relationships with movie distributors that often give him an edge. “I do sometimes get things directly from the studio, but I only get movies based on whether they’re good or people want to see them. And if we miss something, customers let us know quickly; they’re pretty knowledgeable.”
In facts, it’s the ability of Booth and his small staff of four to cater to customers that has kept the store going. “That’s the whole thing,” he says. “There’s something tactile about coming in, talking to the people who work here and discovering new things. Amazon tried to design a program that can make recommendations, but it’s hard to teach a computer how to do that beyond actor, director or genre. For our customers it’s not just renting a movie; it’s an experience.”
617 N. Highland Avenue, 30306
STORY: H.M. Cauley
PHOTO: Scott Reeves