With the ease of Netflix and Redbox, it’s a tough world out there for video stores—but film buff Miguel Gomez is standing his ground. Viva Video: The Last Picture Store will open in Ardmore in mid-October, renting out everything from new Hollywood releases to little-known art films, with a focus on well-reviewed art cinema, documentaries and foreign films.
More than just a place where customers can rent a flick, Gomez envisions Viva Video as “a film lover’s community,” he said.
TLA Video Closing
Gomez is the manager of Bryn Mawr’s TLA Video, a Main Line art cinema fixture that after 21 years in business will shutter its doors for the last time on Oct. 7.
The last remaining store in the company, the Bryn Mawr TLA has a steady customer base, but the company can’t sustain the high rent in the Bryn Mawr Square shopping center, Gomez said. Previously, TLA had locations in New York and Philadelphia; the last remaining store besides Bryn Mawr was the Rittenhouse Square location, which closed last year.
Gomez, who studied film at Haverford College, has worked at TLA for nearly 14 years, since he was a sophomore in college. After he got word over a year ago that TLA would be closing the store, Gomez began making plans to open a store of his own.
As the only suburban store in the TLA franchise, “It [already] felt like it was our shop,” he said.
'The Last Picture Store'
And while Viva Video, to be located at 16 W. Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore, will have the same feel that TLA did—including the same knowledgeable staff—having his own store will allow Gomez to indulge in some of his own interests.
“Weird stuff” is how he describes it: largely undiscovered 1970s foreign horror films, along with an expanded Bollywood collection. Gomez says he wants to explore “the further extremes of art cinema and cult cinema," including items that may not rent out a lot, but are still worth having in stock.
The majority of the inventory, though, will be a mix of new releases and well-reviewed art films, documentaries and foreign flicks.
Gomez’s future plans for the space include adding a café area with ice cream, where customers can peruse current film magazines and books. The intent is not only to present customers with a variety of art cinema options, but to give them a guide for exploring them, Gomez said. Also in the works are plans to host screenings at the store.
But can a video store survive in 2012 and beyond, with the convenience of services like Netflix and Redbox?
Gomez is confident that it can.
“Video stores have definitely been having a tough time—but the ones that have survived, across the nation, are the really good ones,” he said. “Blockbuster came after we started and left before us by years—and I don’t think that’s an accident. What we offer is still something more than what you can get On Demand, or on Netflix, in terms of variety, knowledge and expertise.”
The experience of watching a movie, he added, is "disposable" if you’re watching it alone on a computer.
"I believe there’s some value in going to a store to get [the film] and discuss it… and I think that’s what’s kept us relevant," Gomez explained.
Gomez hopes to open Viva Video at 16 W. Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore by Oct. 12. While he already has thousands of movies to rent out at the new store, the inventory won’t be complete for about four months, he said.
TLA, located at 761 W Lancaster Ave., will rent videos through Sept. 30, and the store will be open Oct. 1-2 for returns. The store will close Oct. 3-4 and reopen on Friday, Oct. 5 for a three-day inventory sale, closing Sunday at 10 p.m. for the last time.
“I’ve already had my mourning period for the store, since I knew for over a year that [we’d be closing],” Gomez said of TLA. “So now, I’m ... just very excited for what I’m going to create for people in Ardmore.”
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