Closing Out 2008: Kim's Video, RIP

As the new year beckons, it's also time to say goodbye to my favorite video store of all time, Kim's on St. Mark's and 3rd Avenue, which is relocating its retail operations and shutting down its rentals entirely.

While I don't think I've spent more than a few hundred dollars in rentals at Kim's over the years, it's been almost exclusively in accessing titles that I couldn't find anywhere else: not at the New York Public Library, not on Netflix, not online. I suppose the latter two constituents had something to do with the financial insolubility of Kim's Video, not to mention the brick-and-mortar video rental industry as a whole. Perhaps it's an inevitable outcome of video watching in the virtual age, but still it's sad to see a longstanding revered institution go down.

The fate of the collection of rental titles, numbering 55,000, has been a looming question for some time.  For the past few months, proprietor Yongman Kim has been publicly seeking a benefactor to acquire the entire rental collection. One stipulation was that the collection be available to the general public, thus ruling out academic institutions that would probably have the endowment to purchase the collection but would be unwilling to operate a public borrowing or rental operation. Apparently institutions like the New York Public Library and online companies like Netflix didn't figure into the solution.

As the fate of the collection became more uncertain over the past few weeks, I've focused the Shooting Down Pictures project on watching films that I could only find at Kim's, so that I could review them in the event that they should no longer be available for rental. Such titles include: Judex, Before the Revolution, Il Sorpasso, Murder by Contract, Variety, Sandra, Carnival in Flanders, and We All Loved Each Other So Much.  I've also rented other titles that I digitized for upcoming entries. Like a squirrel I've been harvesting cinematic nuts for the bleak winter known as a post-Kim's video world.

Last week I noticed at the checkout counter a blown-up poster-size version of a proposal kit from the city of Salemi, Sicily, offering to house the entire collection in its civic archives.

At first I thought this was some kind of joke, meant to foment enough outrage that a local benefactor would step up with a serious offer to keep the collection in New York City. But it seems that this proposal is for real, and is very much in the process of happening...

But what about Yongman Kim's stipulation that the collection be available to the general public?  I guess when he said that he didn't specify what nationality the public had to be, so New Yorkers are screwed. Oh wait, the Sicilians did take this into consideration. Read the fine print in the second paragraph under "keeping up with Kim's Video members".

Guess I can plan a trip to Sicily sometime to play into what apparently amounts to a small island city's cinephilic tourist stunt.  And I love how it's now to be known as "Kim's Video Collection of New York in Salemi, Sicily."

What to make of all this, I don't know. It's still too surreal to be believed. Just know that New York, as a global stronghold of cinema culture, has lost an invaluable resource (unless Sicily is now to be considered the sixth borough of the city).  As far as whoever is responsible for this development, I hold them in the same regard as the person who left his mark on Asia Argento's forehead in a poster for The Last Mistress that was last seen gracing the stairwell of the video rentals section: