Film Noir: Portrait Of A Greenpoint Video Store
When we heard that Film Noir (10 Bedford Ave), our local destination for cult-favorite film rentals, had started handing out monthly flyers that curate a small selection of recommended films, we wasted no time in heading over to talk to owner Will Malitek about this refreshingly anti-technology customer service concept.
With the recent news that the Greenpoint video store Photoplay is closing today, our profile comes at just the right time to remind you that you have another excellent place to take your business. You might just learn something new when you stop by, too.
GP: What inspired you to make these flyers and hand them out to people?
Will: Actually, it was a customer’s idea; I think she works for a printing company, so she said she could help with it. She told me to choose the ideas and the films, on a monthly basis. This month is film noir, and I always write a little bit about the films; just a few words about each film. It’ll probably be six films per flyer.
GP: How long have you been here?
Will: 9 years, almost exactly – we opened March 1st.
GP: Do you feel challenged by how the world has changed since then?
Will: Not at all! What I have here, you usually can’t find online. Many people come in and say, “Do you have this film? Because it’s not on Netflix.” And that’s usually the case. That’s also how I make my decisions when buying films from distribution centers. I check if it’s available online, and if it’s not, then bingo. I actually have some members here who work for big studio companies, and they’re telling me to expect some films to be withdrawn from the internet soon. Already Netflix’s catalog is probably half of what it used to be. Big studios have realized they’re losing money. Making money for them happens in the first few weeks when the movie’s in the theater, and then another big chunk comes when there’s the DVD release. With the internet killing all this, the biggest chunk of business is kaput. So, they’re slowly pulling out the movies from the internet. That’s why if you saw Netflix’s catalog from two years ago, now it’s maybe even less than half what it used to be – and it’s going to get even smaller very soon.
GP: So how do you stay up on the news about all this, and do your research about what you want to provide in the store?
Will: I listen to what people say, first of all. If ten people come and all ask for one film, that means this movie will rent for sure. So it’s my customers helping me make my decisions. And then of course, I love classic movies, and studios are releasing more and more old films that were never available on DVD before. So those I buy. Because I’m not into new releases or Hollywood.
GP: Do you carry a small amount of those, in case it’s what people are looking for?
Will: That’s what’s over there [we laugh and Will points to a small, modest shelf]. A few dozen – that’s it.
GP: The flyers you’re distributing are special and rare in such a technological time, and seem like they should stay a secret for your customers; I’m almost wondering if you mind that we want to talk about it on the internet!
Will: Well, maybe more people would be able to give feedback if they read about it online. Like on Yelp! I don’t have a website anymore; it’s too much work. Because I’m constantly buying films, and now with almost 10,000 titles, having a catalog online became ridiculous. Because some movies I sold, so I’d have to take them out from the catalog, and I get new movies in almost every Tuesday, and it’s just constantly changing. I gave up on maintaining a website. Plus, this is a local business – this is not an internet business. I don’t sell online, and people who come to me aren’t looking for me online. They come, they buy, they rent – and 99% of them are from Greenpoint and the north side of Williamsburg. Especially in the last three years, since Reel Life on Bedford and N. 5th closed. That was a big video store; kind of cool actually, very culty. They used to serve the other side of McCarren Park, so now everybody comes here.
GP: Do you see yourself staying here indefinitely and continuing to build your community of members?
Will: Well, I still have a long lease to go – so yes! Definitely. Absolutely. I’m staying here.
Greenpointers, you can learn so much from Will – go visit the store the next time you have a yen to revisit a favorite movie that you can’t turn up online. Tell him we sent you! And don’t forget to ask for a flyer.