|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
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
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
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."