Written by Eddie Gurrola
Photos by Videotheque
Home Video has been there for us in a way we've never needed it before over the past year. In celebration of the format, we've reached out to the folks that own and operate some of the baddest video stores in America to hear about how they got started, where their passion comes from, and how they've adapted to new customer needs during the pandemic.
Mark Wright, owner of Videotheque in South Pasadena, joined us for a Q&A, which we're excited to share below.
Cinematic Void: Tell us about how the store got started...
Mark Wright: I was a clerk and later managed at a great video store [called] Video Paradiso in my college town of Claremont, CA. It was a lot of fun, [and at the time it] still felt possible to launch a lucrative indie shop. So I found the perfect neighborhood in South Pasadena, [and we] opened on Mission Street in 2003. Chains like The Wherehouse and Hollywood Video were starting to downsize [back then, so] I was able to buy a ton of titles on the cheap and quickly build up a rental library.
When folks come in to Videotheque, what do you hope they get out of the experience?
I hope they rediscover the joy of browsing. There's an art to making that perfect choice: actively strolling curated aisles, inspecting box art, and allowing for serendipity. It's more satisfying and social than passively letting algorithms push things your way. I like to think we're making the video store fun again. We also stock new and used vinyl, posters, books, T-shirts, and we recently brought in a pinball machine and vintage table-top arcade.
Having a physical rental store in the city of South Pasadena must mean a lot to the community. What have you noticed in regards to the impact that Videotheque has made on the Pasadena area over the years?
We're celebrating art, weirdness, and standing out from corporate retail. I hope our funky shop has planted a flag for independent spirits -- exposing customers to classics, genre and horror corners, and international and arthouse delights they may have missed otherwise. Our customers are a hardcore community of film lovers and I believe we've helped nourish [them]. It feels like we've achieved an affectionate throwback status, and people are continuing to respond in a big way. Despite all the pandemic scariness, we've had quite a busy run this year.
Cinematic Void and Massacre Video Present Cinematic Void Up All Night and the Cinemadness Movie - Friday 6/25 at 8:30 PM PST (Details Here)
How would you describe your horror and cult movie sections?
It's a blast to break the shop into intuitive groupings. Our horror titles are divided into eras/stars (Lugosi, Vincent Price, Vampira + Elvira, Christopher Lee, etc.); filmmakers/studios (John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Stuart Gordon + Brian Yuzna, Charles Band, Ti West, Hammer, Blumhouse, Troma, AGFA, etc.); and genres/territories like Giallo; French / British / Spanish / Mexican Horror; and revolving sections like J-Horror, Viral/Zombie, Found Footage, and Creature Features.
For the Cult & American Indie walls, we have [dedicated groupings] for John Waters, Maya Deren, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Alex Cox, Pam Grier + Jack Hill, Dennis Hopper + Peter Fonda, Roger Corman, Christina Lindberg, Rudy Ray Moore, Mary Harron, Crispin Glover, Karyn Kusama, Anna Biller, and [we also have] the ever-popular Troubled Youth section, [which contains favorites] like CHRISTIANE F, OUT OF THE BLUE, TIMES SQUARE, DER FAN, and GUMMO.
If we walked in right now, what would be a few titles you’d recommend to us that we might have passed over on our own?
During lockdown, I binged all 14 hours of Mark Cousins' WOMEN MAKE FILM: A NEW ROAD MOVIE THOUGH CINEMA on Blu-ray, an extraordinary doc on women filmmakers from the dawn of cinema through today, incorporating hundreds of films and narrated by Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda, et al. Also, I recently brought in a number of region-free Blu-rays from France and would highly recommend the 70s and 80s comedies of Yves Robert & Francis Veber. Also, a sexy thriller from '85 by Michel Deville, PERIL - DEATH IN A FRENCH GARDEN. Then, there's perhaps my favorite recent caper watch, ANY NUMBER CAN WIN (MELODIE EN SOUS SOL) with Jean Gabin and Alain Delon from '63. Spot the Kubrick KILLING-esque finale.
A couple more hidden gems: we tracked down an HD copy of OUT OF BOUNDS with Anthony Michael Hall, an amazing postcard of LA from 1986. And...maybe my favorite romantic comedy from the 80's - ELECTRIC DREAMS - with Virginia Madsen and Lenny von Dohlen, directed by Steve "Take on Me" Barron.
And now for our final question. Favorite movie about the underworld of Los Angeles. Go!
I'll take Thom Anderson's (a Videotheque customer himself!) documentary LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF because you get so many in one: BLADE RUNNER, NIGHT OF THE COMET, THE OUTSIDE MAN, MESHES OF THE AFTERNOON, POINT BLANK, VALLEY GIRL, KISS ME DEADLY, BREATHLESS (1983), KILLER OF SHEEP, REPO MAN, MODEL SHOP, and THE BIG LEBOWSKI.