Editor’s Note: Aaron Hillis, co-owner and curator of Brooklyn’s home video store Video Free Brooklyn, has long looked for ways to make his brick-and-mortar outfit sustainable in the ever-changing world of both home media and the neighborhood it calls home. Nearly five years after taking over VFB, Hillis is announcing an exciting new location — and direction — for the store at Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse. Below, he explains the decision.
To our loyal customers, supporters and fans:
Video Free Brooklyn is moving out of 244 Smith Street at the end of 2016…
In early 2017, we will be at the Alamo Drafthouse Theater in downtown Brooklyn!
In the spring of 2012, I visited my local Cobble Hill video store and was unsurprised to learn they had immediate plans to shut down. It was always a peculiar holdout in a vanishing industry, partly due to a savvy customer base, a solid selection of DVDs and Blu-rays that can’t be found on streaming services, and a prime location along what was then the “restaurant row” of the neighborhood.
My wife Jennifer suggested we look into why VFB was closing. When we discovered the store was still sustainable, we held our breath and bought it. Through the help of generous donations and a grateful clientele, we renovated the space, cultivated our collection, and hired a friendly staff of cinephiles. The shop wasn’t just a nostalgic throwback but a movie lover’s hangout that we’re deeply proud of.
Four-and-a-half years later, as detailed in recent articles, the economic realities of Cobble Hill have mutated dramatically. Smith Street’s walking traffic has significantly slowed down and our regulars are being priced out in droves. Even the bars and restaurants have become empty storefronts or chain stores. VFB has been an amazing labor of love in this incarnation, but sometimes you need to evolve.
My friend Tim League, CEO and founder of the Alamo Drafthouse, has long been a great ally. When I mentioned VFB needed to wind down soon, Tim took a chance and invited me to bring our store to his one-of-a-kind cinema. As plans come together, we’ll make a formal announcement in the New Year. We are going to try to minimize the downtime as we move the store to the heart of Downtown Brooklyn, and know that all existing credits and memberships will be honored in full in the new location. Sign up for our email newsletter to receive updates on the move.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of our original crazy experiment and those who simply believed in our dream. I hope you’ll come by this month to pay your respects to the current team (Marc, Nina, Michael, Kathleen, Cody) and take advantage of our rental collection while it’s still on Smith. We even have a few t-shirts, tote bags, and used discs left if you’re looking for holiday gifts.
And never lose your humanity in an increasingly lonely world of clickbait and unfiltered noise! Physical media remains important, and film culture won’t survive without us being open to the joy of discovery.
Viva la cinema,
Co-owner and curator, Video Free Brooklyn
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