New York’s Two-Unit International Film & Video Center Is Classical Blast Iranian Film Scholar Has Foreign, Rare Titles In Store

Posted by By at 21 April, at 13 : 34 PM Print

New York- The International Film & Video Center here is aptly named. The two-store video operation specializes in foreign film and art/historical classic titles and is headed by Bahman Maghsoudlou, an Iranian expatriate and film scholar, whose exhaustive Iranian Cinema has just been published in English.

“Video is cinema,” says Maghsoudlou, who has lived in the U.S. for 15 years and launched the video stores in 1983 as part of his one-hour photo service. “I try to transfer my knowledge [of cinema] to the small boxes on the shelves and the customers, to release information through this channel.”

The extent of Maghsoudlou’s knowledge is evident from a partial survey of his shelves. The newly released Russian version of ‘War And Peace’ is there, as is the complete set of legendary French director Max Ophuls’ eight films. Maghsoudlou also boasts a full line of the work of Spanish great Luis Buñuel and Italy’s Pier Paolo Pasolini (Mamma Roma, he notes, is neither subtitled nor dubbed in English, although it is available). As for legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock (Maghsoudlou is currently writing a book on Hitchcock’s use of subjective shots), International even carries Hitchcock’s silent films.
“Many of my titles aren’t profitable for video stores, but they have such artistic or historical value that I know one day somebody will call for them,” says Maghsoudlou. “I don’t care if they stand on the shelf for a year without being rented. I’m a film scholar and these are gems. I want them to be here, and if I sell one of them, I replace it within a few days.”

Maghsoudlou’s ability to stock and replace hard-to-find, film-buff video fare is constantly being tested. “Just this morning someone called looking for Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘One From The Heart,’ after looking all over for it. I had it and sold it right there, and I’ll replace it this week. And the week before Christmas, someone wanted ‘Black Orpheus’ and said they called RKO’s toll-free number and were told it wasn’t on video. I had it. The big chains have thousands and thousands of titles and millions of dollars and they don’t know what’s going on.”

Maghsoudlou is able to locate titles one by one through his vast movie and video contacts. “We thoroughly research requests and can provide overnight delivery,” he says. “I deal with every distributor from the smallest to the largest and, being a film historian, I know if any movie is on tape or not. I can even have custom tapes produced, like a 1924 silent version of ‘Salome,’ which the owner transferred from his 16-millimeter print.”

The heart of International Film & Video Center’s operation is its 134-page catalog, which is given free to club members (who pay $45 dues for one year or $75 for two) and to people who answer Maghsoudlou’s Yellow Pages ad. The catalog, which otherwise costs $3.50, lists 5,000 titles and offers capsule summaries of films as well as their directors, stars, year, language (including whether they are dubbed and/or subtitled), and stock number. Also, the catalog, which will be updated in April, has star and director indexes (with checklists), as well as a country-of-origin index.
“I have almost 2,000 foreign films, and I break them down by country instead of language because there can be 10 countries that make Spanish films, and many others that make Arabic films. I’ve got the largest selection of Russian films, many of them without subtitles. And I also have cassettes in the European formats.”

Maghsoudlou doesn’t advertise outside the Yellow Pages, preferring to invest his cash in inventory. His 7,000 titles are divided between two 450-square-foot stores, which are located three blocks apart on the East Side of midtown Manhattan. This “controlled area” permits customers to pick up and return films at either outlet. The stores, which offer free delivery service, are computer linked via the multistation, multistore Master Video program, containing complete membership and inventory data at both points.
Maghsoudlou is negotiating for a third store nearby, which would provide space for laser discs. He is also considering opening a West Coast outlet, though he notes that he sells tapes nationally through the mail.

“I try to educate and expose people to film classics and foreign films, which is what I’m suited for,” says Maghsoudlou. “I can make recommendations as to which company has the best quality print of a title, and I’ll even go against my business interest and tell a customer when a film is junk. Like ‘Three Men and a Baby.’ They should see the French original, Three Men And A Cradle!”

Billboard, January 1989



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