IFVC Starts Production Work, New Video Label Company Also Launches New Web Site in Order To Host International Film Festival
New York — Facing growing uncertainties about the future of home-video retailing, New York retailer International Film & Video Center (IFVC) is branching out beyond traditional brick-and-mortar retail.
Located near the United Nations on Manhattan’s East Side, the store specializes in classic and international films, but it is now moving into film production and has started its own home-video label. The store has also launched a web site, ifvc.com, to celebrate the company’s global view and to provide a location for its forthcoming Internet film festival.
The film festival, to be scheduled for later in the year, will Webcast short and feature-length documentary and animated films. Films will be judged by an international jury and awarded prizes, says IFVC president Bahman Maghsoudlou, an Iranian expatriate and film scholar whose 15-year-old company has earned plaudits from publications including The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly, as well as Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide. Maghsoudlou has also served as an international film festival judge.
The store carries approximately 15,000 titles, about 25% of which are out of print or hard to find. The store’s Web site, which launched in December, allows customers outside of its neighborhood to buy and rent videos and DVDs via e-mail. Consumers who order via the site are charged a $15 rental fee for the first title and $10 per additional title. The tapes can be kept for a week, and the service includes a postage-paid return envelope.
Beginning in February, site visitors will have access to IFVC’s extensive database, which consists of film titles and information regarding their directors, cast and country of origin. The site also gives consumers information on new releases and in-house recommendations for films ranging from Casablanca to Werner Herzog’s 1972 German masterpiece Aguirre: The Wrath of God, starring Klaus Kinski.
In addition to starting the website, Maghsoudlou is expanding into the film production business. Currently in production is the feature film The Last Train, a movie that depicts the last years of Leo Tolstoy, which is directed by Oscar-nominated Hungarian director Karoly Makk. Other productions in the works are the documentary Grass: Untold Stories, about Iran’s nomadic Bakhtiari tribe. The film tells the story of the production of the film Grass and its producers – Merian C. Cooper (King Kong), Ernest B. Schoedsack and Marguerite Harrison. It is directed by Iranian researcher/director Farhad Varahram, who documented the Bakhtiari tribe in 1987’s Taraz, which focused on the recollections of the late Lotfali Karimi, the son of the Bakhtiari chief who was a central figure in the Grass documentary.
Other productions from IFVC include the Iranian documentary short Life In Fog, which was directed by Bahman Ghobadi and has won 15 international film festival awards. Ghobadi also directed the 1999 theatrical film A Time For Drunken Horses, which won the Cannes Camera d’Or prize for best first film. Another IFVC feature film, Surviving Paradise, directed by Kamshad Kooshan, was released in the US in 1999. In the midst of all this activity, IFVC debuted its home-video label in 1999 with Ahmad Shamlou: Master Poet Of Liberty, a documentary about the great Iranian contemporary poet. Maghsoudlou also produced the film.
Maghsoudlou, who is set to publish his latest book, Love And Liberty In Cinema, notes that the company’s extended activities have been necessitated by the changing, and challenging, climate of the home-video retail business. “It’s become very unstable over the last two years,” he says, “as the various studios came in with different plans to sell more tapes at reduced prices, and saturated the market.” He says that while the reduced prices have increased copy depth for new releases, their rental activity greatly decreases after just a few weeks on the shelves. Many of the extra copies end up at used-tape brokers. “As a result, stores go to these dealers, and right away, after one week of release, they go down to $30, $35 apiece in value,” he says. “But those dealers who bought in at $70-$75 see their investment drop in value to as little as $10 after four weeks, and they go out of business very fast.”
He also notes that suppliers that quickly move rental titles to sell-through pricing contribute to the general decline of video stores. “When they release movies at an average retail price of $110, and three months later they’re reduced to $14.99, that’s a depreciation that no business can tolerate.” Maghsoudlou says that the declining value of videocassettes and even the growing DVD format are adding to the uncertainty in the marketplace. “It’s very hard to divide your budget between one format that’s dying and one that’s growing,” he says, “especially when there’s no single policy of addressing these issues from the major suppliers.”
Billboard, January 2001