In a time when almost every other video rental store has closed its doors, it feels like a miracle that Greenpoint’s beloved Film Noir (formerly at 10 Bedford Avenue, and previously profiled by Greenpointers in 2014) has not only survived, it’s expanding.
On March 31st, owner Will Malitek moved shop and opened a gorgeous, 54-seat art house cinema at 122 Meserole Avenue. You can still stop in to browse and rent hard-to-find titles. But now, even better, you can also catch carefully curated screenings of cult classics and underground films in an intimate neighborhood movie theater. Check out what’s playing on their site.
We stopped by to talk with Will about how he got started, his new location, and what Film Noir Cinema has in store for the future.
GP: For me, the best part about living in Greenpoint is that I can rent movies from Film Noir. How long have you been in this neighborhood?
Will: I moved to Greenpoint on Sept 1, 1990, and Film Noir has been open for the past 12 years.
GP: How did you get into the video rental business?
Will: I used to work for somebody. And then, after a while, you know, I decided I know it all, I can go out on my own. And I did.
GP: This somebody also had a video rental store?
Will: Yes. Well, more sales than rentals. But me, when I began, I was more interested in rentals with additional sales. They were the opposite. And they were in Chelsea, so they dealt with a lot of porn too – Chelsea is a very different neighborhood. So they had sales, rentals and a lot of porn, but porn was in the basement. I was managing the top floor, which had the regular movies. So after being there… oh, I was there for a long time… I thought, “What am I doing here? I can do it by myself.” And I just quit and opened my store in Greenpoint. That’s it. The decision was quick. And it worked!
GP: Did you already have most of your video collection at that point?
Will: When I opened I had at least 1,000 movies. But I had to buy a lot within a few months before opening. So when I opened the store in Greenpoint, my inventory was 2,880 movies exactly. So that means I had to buy almost 2,000 films to get started. By the time I closed the store on Bedford Avenue last Monday, it grew to almost 9,000 titles.
GP: Wow. How many trips did you have to make to bring all those movies over to your new location?
Will: Oh, a dozen at least. A friend and my wife’s father helped me out. He’s got a Jeep Cherokee with folding seats. We filled almost 200 liquor store boxes with movies.
GP: It’s pretty incredible that at this day in age, when so many other video rental stores have closed, you’re actually expanding. How have you made the business work? What are you doing right?
Will: First of all, I don’t compromise. Second, if I want to do something, I will do everything it takes to get it done. And third, there’s a way to stay in this business. Not everything is available online. And I have movies you can’t find online. Usually, before acquiring a film for the store, I do research to see if you can watch it online. If you can’t, it’s something I’ll buy. Or if you can find it online but it’s not everywhere, it’s a good film for me to have. Plus, people still have nostalgia for this sort of business. So it’s going well. Over 4,300 people have a rental account with me. But this, this is a big step.
GP: Is owning your own movie theater something you’ve always dreamed of?
Will: Since I was about 10 years old. I’ve been totally hooked on movies since I was a kid. And I’m really hooked – it’s no joke. I don’t like movies, I love movies. They’re sort of like my drug, maybe that’s a good way to put it.
GP: How many movies do you watch a day?
Will: At least one. It’s mandatory.
GP: So what was this building before you turned it into the new Film Noir Cinema?
Will: It was a medical facility for about 20 years. And before that, for a long, long time it was a funeral home called Smith Funeral Home. It was the oldest funeral home in Greenpoint. If you ask old Greenpointers, they all know Smith Funeral Home. In the basement there’s an ice chute because this funeral home was here before people had refrigerators. So they had to keep the bodies in the basement on ice.
GP: That’s pretty creepy!
Will: Yeah, very creepy. A good story to tell on Halloween Night.
GP: I came to see Jodorowsky’s El Topo last Friday night and had a great time. The seats are super comfortable! Where did they come from?
Will: The seats came from Hollywood, all 54 of them. They were salvaged from a movie theater that went bankrupt. So they’re real theater seats with some history. I think that’s a nice story, from Hollywood to Greenpoint.
GP: Your bathroom is also a work of art. Who did the mural?
Will: Two of my long-time customers, Abby Lloyd and Chris Retsina. They’re also going to do a marquee for me soon once the weather improves. It’s going to be really nice – they’re doing it in old film noir font, and it’ll have Humphrey Bogart smoking a cigarette. Humphrey is the king of noir, of course.
GP: Ah, yes. The Maltese Falcon was the very first film you screened.
Will: Yes, exactly, that’s how I opened. The Maltese Falcon is the beginning of film noir, so I had to do it. I had no choice, I had to start with The Maltese Falcon.
GP: It seems like in your first few weeks of programming you’re mostly showing cult classics and classic films noirs. Are you going to stick with these genres?
Will: The programming is going to go much more underground, definitely. This is just the beginning. You have to begin somewhere, so we’re beginning with the classics. This doesn’t mean we’ll quit showing them, we’ll still show a lot of them, but we’re going to go deep underground too. One day I’d also like to start a Greenpoint Film Festival.
GP: I was just going to ask if you’d thought about supporting contemporary filmmakers.
Will: Absolutely. That’s an idea that’s going to take shape sooner rather than later. The space is also open for rentals or special events, but it has to be something that has to do with cinema or music. Not some kind of trade show or something like that.
GP: It’d be awesome to have directors and filmmakers come to talk about their work.
Will: Absolutely, I’m very open to having Q&A’s. Another plan is to bring bands in to live score silent films.
GP: I’m curious, do you ever go out to the movies after you get off work?
Will: I used to, but not anymore. I don’t have time. I used to go to the movies a lot, but now I’m going to watch everything here. I guess you could say now I don’t have to.