New York – If you’re strolling down New York’s First Avenue in search of a video store, you’re liable to miss the little white storefront at 54th Street that is International Film & Video Center (IFVC). Unless, of course, you’re a fan of its eclectic mix of classic and foreign films not available at the nearby Blockbuster.
Specializing in product ranging from the films of Jean-Luc Godard and Akira Kurosawa to American classics from Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks, IFVC has thrived for nearly 20 years by feeding movie fans, both near and far, with a steady diet of films that are outside the mainstream.
“I have a great network of customer’s, from universities and film companies to film buffs from around the world,” IFVC owner Bahman Maghsoudlou says. “I’ve had a Blockbuster next to me for the last five years, but they only carry new releases and send customers who ask for special films to us. For the industry to ultimately survive, it needs both the megastores and the micro-stores like us.”
What also separates IFVC from the competition is Maghsoudlou. An Iranian expatriate and film scholar who founded the store in 1983, he’s as sophisticated as his video inventory. Currently he’s completing two books – Subjective Camera in Hitchcock’s Films and Analysis of Iranian Cinema After the Revolution – and has produced the films Surviving Paradise and the upcoming The Last Train, based on the life of Leo Tolstoy. In between writing and filmmaking, Maghsoudlou is a lecturer and international film festival adviser and juror.
Don’t Kill VHS Prematurely
Sitting in his tiny second floor office, perched over IFVC’s 15,000-title inventory, the outspoken Maghsoudlou has some strong opinions about how a small independent dealer like himself can survive as the business continues to change.
The key to the future is the DVD-Video format, he says, but that’s only if he and other video retailers can outlive the tricky transition from tape to disc. “It will take time to change over from VHS machines to DVD players, and Hollywood is making a mistake in rendering VHS obsolete so fast. It can continue to be a great revenue-maker without damaging DVD’s growth.”
While he recognizes the appeal of DVD over tape, Maghsoudlou points out that 90% of US households still own a VCR. “It will be very difficult to replace VHS customers with DVD customers, and retailers are suffering because they have to buy the same movie on two different forms. As a result, he says, retail-purchasing budgets are shrinking, which forces stores to offer smaller selections.
Maghsoudlou, who believes VHS will be a viable format for the next 10 years, also suggests that studios drop their strict policies on regional coding of DVD hardware and software until it becomes the dominant format in the marketplace. Regional coding blocks access to a DVD in certain international territories. Customers, however, can purchase various players that circumvent the codes.
While many indie dealers mainly deal in the rental business, Maghsoudlou estimates that between 75% and 80% of IFVC’s revenue comes from video sales. The store also sells more than 5,000 out-of-print titles, which significantly contributes to the bottom line.
Additionally, the store recently launched a Web site, ifvc.com, to further extend its reach beyond 54th Street. The site allows customers to buy and rent videos and DVDs via e-mail, as well as get information on new releases from IFVC’s extensive database.
A substantial number of out-of-town patrons has also discovered the store through favorable mentions in the Leonard Maltin Film & Vide Guide books and such publications as The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.
“Hollywood needs to move fast to change the pessimistic view that a lot of retailers will go out of business in the next few years,” he says. “That’s a very dangerous notion for Hollywood to be part of.”
Billboard, September 2001