N.Y. Retailer Installs Art For Video’s Sake Setting Store Apart Is Key For Classics/Import Specialist
New York- Bahman Maghsoudlou, the Iranian expatriate film scholar and author who has successfully moved into movie production from his International Film & Video Center in Manhattan, has devised a way to further distinguish his store from the competition: He has turned it into an art gallery.
Maghsoudlou has just hung six paintings by Daryush Shokof, a multi-dimensional artist and founder of the Maximalism school. Maximalist paintings, Maghsoudlou says, are figurative and involve eroticism, social comment, and satire. One of the movement’s best-known pieces, Shokof’s Vegetarian Dracula, is included in International’s exhibit.
Shokof, meanwhile, is currently collaborating with Maghsoudlou on a movie project, thereby fulfilling Maghsoudlou’s requirements for in-store exhibition. “We’ll only display the work of diverse artists,” Maghsoudlou says, meaning either film or video makers who paint, or painters who make films or videos. Regarding Shokof, his avant garde short Angels Are Wired, which won an award at the 1993 Prague Video Festival and is now in the Bonn Museum, will also be programmed at International Film & Video Center, as will his CD soundtrack to Dogs Are Not Allowed on the German Wurfel label, a more recent experimental feature that has been honored at the Kassel Film Festival.
Both Shokof titles were co-produced by Maghsoudlou, who previously was executive producer of Manhattan By Numbers, the first English language movie by acclaimed Iranian director Amir Naderi. The feature garnered great press when it was shown at some 30 international festivals last year, including the New Directors/New Films festival in New York, and Maghsoudlou is now premiering it in several major U.S. markets. He’s also readying two more productions, including a thriller titled Breathful, starring writer/director Shokof (co-directed & shot by Moj Anvari) and fellow artist Georg Dokoupil.
Dokoupil, a founder of the New Wild Painters movement in Germany, will be the subject of Maghsoudlou’s next art installation. But the video store/art gallery concept itself showcases his newly renovated and expanded location on the posh East Side near Bloomingdale’s. The outlet has absorbed a sister location two blocks away.
Key to the makeover of the 600-square-foot store are the 30-foot-high white walls, which provide space for the exhibitions. But equally significant from the retail perspective is Maghsoudlou’s move toward displaying his select inventory of more than 14,000 titles in flat, 6-inch by 1-inch, clear plastic browser sleeves. “Instead of being able to have only 5,000 [empty] boxes on the floor, we now have the cover art to all our titles sorted in bins alphabetically by category or nationality,” says Maghsoudlou, whose store has been cited by magazines and Leonard Maltin’s Movie And Video Guide for its depth in classic and foreign films.
“When I established the store in ’83, I wanted it to be different and unique, to be a library of world cinema for film scholars and buffs and universities and celebrities,” says Maghsoudlou, adding that his clientele is made up of these groups and also includes international mail-order customers. “When giants like Blockbuster came around, I knew I couldn’t compete with them financially, so I concentrated on art and the history of motion pictures.”
But the current state of the video industry makes this difficult, he says. “Business isn’t bad – but it’s not good. We survive because we’re specialists and can ship any title that’s in print anywhere in the world within two days. But rental is dying because the window between home video and pay-per-view is so small.” (The studios say otherwise, noting that windows for most big titles have opened to 80 days.)
The industry itself isn’t helpful to small retailers like himself, he adds. “They don’t support us in the right way,” he says. “Disney films like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White come out at $26.99 for retailers, but the big chains sell them for $15, so people think we cheat. Something’s fishy here.”
Release schedules also leave much to be desired for dealers like him. “They need to put out more classic film noir and romances from the ’30s. ’40s, and ’50s, which people all over the world look for,” he says, “instead of coming out with a lousy selection of musicals and westerns, which are less in demand. Another example: Fox puts out the De Niro remake of Night And The City, and lets any retailer who buys five pieces get a free copy of the 1950 original, which you can’t get separately! Everyone wants it, but it’s now $350 to get one good $12 movie. They call it ‘promotion’ – I call it ‘imposing’!
“But every company has something against it. [Years ago], RCA/ Columbia [now Columbia TriStar Home Video] put out a lot of classic titles which were so expensive they didn’t work, so they sold a lot of them to GoodTimes, which put them out at a cheap price. But the tape quality was so lousy, they were neither sellable or rentable.
“And when classic films do come out on video, they come out silently: for example, five Harold Lloyd films came out without any fliers, announcements, promotions. I only found out about it through my own curiosity – even the distributors didn’t know about it! “This works against the industry.”
Billboard, November 1994