Recent news from the home video rental market includes Hollywood Video and Movie Gallery, the No. 2 and No. 3 chains in the U.S., filing merger papers with the FTC in an attempt to catch up with top retailer Blockbuster Video, and Blockbuster put into place a new "No Late Fees" policy to attract renters and compete with Internet and mail-based rental systems such as Netflix. Cable providers with on-demand technology and pay-per-view have made watching recent films in your home comfortable, easy and affordable to the extent that leaving the house to rent a video looks more wasteful every day.
While the big home video guys struggle to stay afloat, one wonders: Is there still a place for the little guy, the independently owned neighborhood video store?
Brian and Jessica Andrews-Griffin believe enough in the viability of the neighborhood video store to open their own, Bughouse Video, which had its grand opening in Northside early in December 2004.
Their store is fresh and brightly lit, the walls painted a bright green. It has a decidedly "neighborhood" feel that fits with eclectic Northside.
The co-owners see their store as both a labor of love and a kind of community service. They work day jobs and open the store on weekday evenings and at noon on weekends. The Andrews-Griffins are friendly, outgoing and knowledgeable about the films they carry. So far, they say things are going well, and the response is positive.
Like Kim's Video in New York City, perhaps the best known of the independent video stores, Bughouse focuses on art house, independent, foreign and cult films. They have a section devoted to master directors such as John Cassavetes and Kryztoff Kieslowski, a large and well-represented cult films selection (including Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, directed by Peter Bogdanovich under a pseudonym), and sections for sexploitation classics and martial arts films, among others.
Visitors to Bughouse will come across films they would never find at the big chain stores, and the passion that the Andrews-Griffins have for their work and the films they carry is something that just can't be duplicated by Internet rental services. Bughouse offers films such as Jan Svankmajjer's dark fairy tale, Little Otik, and Guy Maddin's creepy drama, Tales from the Gimli Hospital, alongside science fiction classics, current animated series such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force, as well as films like Tapeheads and The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai. (All films are available in DVD format, although there are some VHS tapes in the collection.)
Every week, Bughouse Video receives 10 to 20 new titles for rental, and the Andrews-Griffins are continually seeking recommendations and requests from patrons for titles to add. If you go, bring a list of obscure favorites in hand -- if the store doesn't have them already, you can contribute your recommendations to the growing library of films at this great local business. After all, the little guys could use a hand.
BUGHOUSE VIDEO is located at 4170 Hamilton Ave. in Northside. A list of available films can be found at www.bughousevideo.com. A membership is required for rental.