When Bruce Springsteen sang “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact / But Maybe Everything that Dies Someday Comes Back,” he certainly had no idea that his words would one day apply to Kim’s video.
After a long and utterly strange journey from the East Village to a dusty Sicilian warehouse, the quirky cult video rental and retail store has returned to New York City. The business reopened Thursday night at the Alamo Drafthouse in Lower Manhattan in a ceremony attended by Kim’s founder Yongman Kim and Alamo manager Tim League.
Alamo has acquired the remainder of other closed video stores for similar projects in other cities, but League told the New York Times this week that acquiring the inventory for Kim’s flagship store, Mondo Kims, was “the white whale.” Mondo Kim’s closed in 2009 and the last remaining Kim’s Video locations on 1st Avenue and 7th Street closed in 2014.
Attendees at the reopening wore masks featuring the film directors’ faces as they entered the store, which was located next to the theaters on the lower level of the building under a new sign that read Kim’s Video Underground.
Dressed in a crisp blue check suit jacket, Kim told attendees about the founding of the business in 1986. The first location was at his dry cleaning store at 99 Avenue A. It was, as he said with a certain understatement, “ a tough neighborhood”. at the time: He had to install more lightbulbs to make the building’s exterior as bright as possible to protect his employees who work late, he added. Kim began stocking films from Korea and Japan, and then Eastern European films, “at the suggestion of my new friends in the community,” he said.
The chain “introduced independent underground artists and filmmakers to a broader audience,” Kim said, calling it a key mission. Some of the people who spent time behind his counter went on to become quite the big names themselves, including director Todd Phillips, musician Andrew WK, Albert Hammond Jr. of The Strokes and Chris Vanderloo, founder of Other Music.
But when the “business model eventually became obsolete,” Kim began closing his stores. He attempted to donate the stores’ inventory to various institutions, but encountered a major problem when trying to house Mondo Kim’s collection, which he wanted to keep intact and open to the public.
That desire eventually led him to send the collection to Salemi, Sicily, where then-mayor Vittorio Sgarbi — a former art critic and member of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s notorious cabinet — hatched a grand plan to revitalize tourism with a 24-hour projection screening at least ten films at any one time, unlimited access to the collection for current Kim’s members, and an ambitious proposal to convert all VHS tapes to DVD.
None of that happened; village voice Reporter Karina Longworth visited Salemi in 2012 and found no museum, or even a hint of one, although locals recalled that something called Centro Kim opened briefly, with a gala party attended by the whole town. The former councilor for creativity accused Mayor Sgarbi of letting the videos rot, saying in an open letter to the Sicilian president that Sgarbi allowed them to sit in storage “rotting, surrounded by mice”. (Sgarbi’s greatest achievement as mayor was opening a museum dedicated to the Mafia; eventually, he was removed from his position by the Interior Ministry in 2012 after allegations that the Mafia had begun interfering with the city’s governance under his watch.)
Also present at the opening ceremony was the current Mayor of Salemi, Domenico Venuti, who spoke briefly before presenting Kim with the Coat of Arms of Salemi. League, in turn, presented Venuti with a dedication plaque. After that ceremonial handover was complete, Kim and League opened a bottle of champagne with a sword and officially declared Kim’s video as business.
Attendees immediately began browsing titles (example categories: “Nitty Gritty NYC,” “Experimental,” “Roller Skating Classics”) while a marching band played and The Press Room — Alamo’s in-house book printing facility and bar — released new copies of a Kim’s video poster. Swag was distributed in VHS cases that featured a picture of Kim himself as a noir-ish detective. “An infamous collection! A mysterious trip to Italy ends! 461 sensational genres! Movies you’d never see are finally BACK IN TOWN,” read the cases’ slogan.
“Like the collection itself, the journey of Kim’s video is legendary, and we’re excited to celebrate its dramatic return to New York City where it belongs,” Anne del Castillo, commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, said in a press statement. “With a well-known passion for and dedication to cinema in all its forms – from B-movies to classics, from indies to blockbusters – the Alamo Drafthouse Lower Manhattan is the ideal new home for this revered collection of films that inspires generations of has filmmakers and cultural influencers.”
Borrowing is free for 5 days, after which late fees apply. A credit card is required for rentals and up to 3 films are allowed at a time. VCRs and DVD players can also be rented.
https://gothamist.com/arts-entertainment/kims-video-new-home-alamo-drafthouse Photos: Kim’s video finds a new home at the Alamo Drafthouse