Friday, July 24, 2009

Fare thee well Cinema Nolita

Apologies for my recent absence from this blog, as I've been enormously busy, my girlfriend and I having just moved into a new apartment together. I wanted to share the sad news with readers in the New York area that Cinema Nolita, the video store where I have worked for the past summer and been a loyal customer for the previous three years, will soon be closing its doors.

Parked between two ladies' dress shops on 178 Mulberry Street, the store is only one of many hubs of cinephillia that have gone belly-up in recent years, along with the West Village's Evergreen Video, Two Boots' Pioneer Theater, and the third floor of Mondo Kim's at their old St. Marks location. Although Cinema Nolita boasted a loyal throng of devoted regular customers, unfortunately it proved to be no match for the allure of Netflix and Blockbuster's no late fee, unlimited renting plans, nor for escalating rent prices and the steady transformation of the surrounding neighborhood into a vacation spot for the young, idle and wealthy.

Gradually, as the Soho/Little Italy neighborhood became a safe, Madame Tussauds waxworks museum version of its bohemian former self, European and Middle American tourists began to dominate its foot traffic, passing the video store by in favor of the designer boutiques and trendy bars. Even so, Cinema Nolita's collection attracted cinephiles from all over lower Manhattan. Abel Ferrara could often be found rifling through the Italian Neorealist films. Customers could sit on the leather sofa by the window and engage in all manner of cinema-related banter. And the staff, always happy to reccomend things, would show meat-and-potatoes filmgoers to the latest blockbusters and prestige pictures and direct hard-core obscurists to the stores untold number of rare titles, some of them available only on VHS or bootleg DVD-R. In addition to this, its weekly Saturday Night Screening series showed a bevy of unknown classics, and invited local filmmakers to share and talk about their work.

The fact that Netflix doesn't and probably will never stock copies of Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls, Elaine May's A New Leaf, John Carpenter's Elvis, or Trent Harris' The Beaver Trilogy is only the the least of the many injustices of Cinema Nolita's closing. Lower Manhattan has lost a true community center for lovers of the cinema, a place where the soon-to-be lost art of face-to-face discussion still transpired. The slow road to film's death as a communal art form is peppered with Starbucks establishments where independent video stores used to be.