“It boils down to one thing – if you want it, we’ve got it.” So says Bart D’Alauro, owner and co-founder of Brunswick video store Bart & Greg’s DVD Explosion, and he’s not wrong. “At this point, we have about 35,000 discs, which translates to about 26,000 individual movies and TV series,” he said, explaining that his store, housed since 2002 in the Tontine Mall on Maine Street in Brunswick, quickly moved into a large space in the mall, at first doubling and then tripling in size.
If only the same could be said of Bart & Greg’s customer base. Subject to the same forces (Netflix, mainly) which finally, in August, choked the life from Portland’s own movie rental institution, Videoport, the store finds itself looking for new ways to convince people that the local, indie video store model still has value. Having worked right ’til the end at Videoport (and with Bart at another indie video store decades ago), I had a lot to ask him about.
People think “well, Netflix has everything.” But that’s not true, right?
Except for “Star Wars,” “Harry Potter,” Pixar, the Disney classics, “Indiana Jones” – all pretty glaring omissions. There’s this idea, too, that, except for those few things, they have just about everything else. There are about 7,500 titles to stream in a given month, compared to our 26,000. Plus, every title in my store has been hand-picked because someone will want to see it. Netflix is filled with movies no one wants because they’re part of a package licensing deal – studios say, “If you want this movie that people care about, you have to take the junk along with it.” You could subscribe to 20 different streaming services and maybe get access to everything we’ve got.
Apart from the fact that it’s killing off video stores, what’s do you see as the worst thing about people watching movies online?
Netflix affects the way people watch movies. They watch 10 minutes and, if they’re not into it, they flip to the next movie. With a video store, there’s the fact that they’ve paid their $3.50, they’re going to give this a shot – you’re watching more challenging movies for that reason. The Netflix effect means people are only watching things in their comfort zone, genres they’re comfortable with. Movies that give them all the info they need in the first 10 minutes when part of the fun of watching movies is trying to figure out who these people are, why they’re doing what they’re doing. It’s a variation on cable – you take what you’re given. Netflix is cable with a few more options.
What’s lost when a community loses its last video store?
It’s a community spot, a gathering place. I enjoy that most people who return a movie want to have a short movie discussion, some analysis, some criticism – they’re not just zoning out to what’s on their screen. They’re actually thinking about it. We’ll get just about anything that’s requested, we pretty much get every new move people will have interest in – foreign films, foreign TV series, we get ’em all. I think the biggest loss is that without video stores you can’t go through Danny Peary’s “Guide for the Film Fanatic” and watch any of those movies – nothing on that checklist (of 1,600 essential films and cult classics) is going to be on Netflix. I have almost all of them.
Bart & Greg’s is a great video store (easily as good as Videoport was), so I urge anyone still smarting over Videoport’s demise, or anyone who values movies, to make the trip. Check out their website at bartandgregs.com. Like Bart & Greg’s on Facebook.
COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS
South Portland High School, South Portland | facebook.com/events/159792097698956
Thursday: “The Mask You Live In.” Presented by South Portland High School and the organization Maine Boys To Me, this documentary examines how young man struggle to remain decent people even in the face of societal and media pressure to be violent, sexist jerks.
SPACE Gallery, Portland | space538.org
Tuesday: “Year-round Metal Enjoyment.” Portland filmmakers Jeff Griecci and Ian Carlsen bring us their new documentary about graffiti artists who work exclusively on the canvasses that are freight trains. Interviewing the artists, railroad employees, and appreciators of train-based art, it’s a world premiere of this fascinating and controversial artistic phenomenon.