The beauty of crowdfunding: it’s both a boon for dreams and an enabler of bad business ideas. Lots of funders are getting behind this Brooklyn soccer camp, but are astroturf flip flops really the next big thing? We also wonder what you think about this one: a couple in Cobble Hill is trying to raise $50,000 to renovate the business they bought: a good old-fashioned DVD store with plastic-sheathed discs and now, a smart movie guy behind the counter. Bobcat Goldthwait, Patton Oswalt and David Cross are all behind it, as is Oscilloscope Laboratories, the film distribution company founded by the late Adam Yauch. But does anyone still want to go to video stores?
Aaron Hillis is a journalist, film critic and curator of the ReRun Gastropub Theater in Dumbo who believes face-to-face recommendations from a trusted source is something movie-watchers still want. On IndieGogo (a crowdsourcing platform like Kickstarter, but you get to keep the dough even if you don’t make goal), he promises that Video Free Brooklyn will offer “that interactive experience of talking to someone knowledgeable behind the counter at all times — someone who can cater to your tastes.” Also, he wants to host screenings, readings and panels in the 375-square-foot space.
Can he succeed? There has been an Amazon-defying renaissance of indie bookstores in Brooklyn, not to mention improbable food businesses. But as the Wall Street Journal notes, the artisanal trend does not seem to apply to video stores, yet: two Park Slope video stores — Reel Life South and Video Forum — have both shut down in the last year. While Hillis does seem like a guy you’d trust to pick a French scifi film, can sheer personality triumph over the immediacy, convenience and $7.99-a-month of Netflix?
Would you ever go back to renting movies you have to physically pick up and then return to the store when you can decide what to watch at 2 a.m. with no advance planning / clothes on? Or is plucking them off of a neighbor’s stoop enough of a recommendation? Wait — do you even have a DVD player?