Vidiots Says Goodbye to Santa Monica
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Gone But Not Forgotten
The movie-rental store Vidiots has closed the doors at its Santa Monica location, after weathering three decades of dramatic change in the way Santa Monica residents watch movies. The store plans to re-open sometime in 2018 in a more central location in Los Angeles, according to its Executive Director Megan Mackay.
Opened 32 years ago by Patty Polinger and Cathy Tauber, Vidiots was the last brick-and-mortar video store in Santa Monica, and one of very few independent video stores left in Los Angeles County. Vidiots was active in Santa Monica through at-home viewing’s transition from VHS to DVD, the rise and fall of Blockbuster Video, and the introduction of film and TV streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
Even to those who’d never been inside Vidiots, its bright Pico Blvd. exterior was familiar to many residents of Santa Monica. Its ’80s multi-colored neon sign matches its teal brick facade. Its windows were often decorated with paintings of classic movie-monsters in day-glo colors.
Inside autographs and messages from Hollywood royalty like “Chinatown” screenwriter Robert Towne and director Oliver Stone cover the walls above shelves of DVDs of otherwise hard-to-find foreign films and cult classics. Like the independent films it rented out, Vidiots branded itself as a cult experience; one for movie lovers by movie lovers.
In recent years, Vidiots has transitioned from a video store into a nonprofit organization and community space. In 2010 Polinger and Tauber opened the Vidiots Annex, a state-of-the-art space for screenings, lectures and Q&As, rebranding the store as a sort of classroom space for cinephiles. The Annex held events with luminaries such as David Mamet, David O. Russell and Angelica Huston. After a round of crowdfunding in 2012, Polinger and Tauber created the Vidiots Foundation as a non-profit arm of their business. The Vidiots Foundation hosts community events, and works to preserve Vidiots’ 50,000 odd titles, many of which are no longer available elsewhere.
Despite this, changing times still took their toll on the store. Three years after the Vidiots Foundation was formed, Polinger and Tauber announced that Vidiots would be closing after years of declining rentals and steep competition from Internet rental services, streaming and piracy. Academy-Award nominated producer Megan Ellison rescued the store from the brink with a last-minute investment in February 2015.
However, Ellison’s generosity wasn’t able to keep Vidiots in Santa Monica. “It was a lot of things,” says Mackay, referring to the reason for the move. “We’re a nonprofit now, and costs were rising in Santa Monica.” There are no specific plans for the new Los Angeles location, but Mackay says they’re looking for somewhere “central, with costs more appropriate for a nonprofit.”
Vidiots may seem like a relic of a bygone era. Gone are the days when we needed to be concerned with things like rental fees and return dates, or when we even needed to leave our houses to get a movie. Now, SMC students have easy access to almost any movie or television show they want. But, according to Mackay Vidiots was more than just a video store. “Vidiots has contributed enormously to the culture of film lovers in Santa Monica,” she says. “Everyone who has entered the space has left with a question answered, or a new experience.”
Vidiots Interview / Soundbite