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Video Free Brooklyn leaving Smith St., moving to Alamo Drafthouse

Taped off: Cult movie-rental store Video Free Brooklyn leaving Smith St., moving to Alamo Drafthouse

Cinema star: Video Free Brooklyn owner Aaron Hillis shows off some of the rare titles that will be offered at the new shop inside Alamo Cinema Drafthouse.
Brooklyn Paper
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It is a rental hike!

Cobble Hill’s last remaining video-lending joint Video Free Brooklyn is leaving its Smith Street home of 14 years at the end of the month, and will relocate to the lobby of Downtown’s newly opened Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. The store’s owner insists there’s still a demand for physical video cassettes and discs, but says the nabe has become too pricey to keep his niche business there open.

“It’s just become a little too tough,” said Aaron Hillis, who has been hawking movies at the store between Douglass and Degraw streets since 2012. “I don’t think the model is broken — I just think the neighborhood has mutated in a way that made it hard to be sustainable.”

Hillis is hauling his 12,000-title collection — heavy on rare, arthouse, and foreign films — to the multiplex on the fourth floor of the new City Point shopping complex on Fulton Mall, where he has struck a deal with the cinema’s head honcho to provide the movies in exchange for free rent.

Video Free Brooklyn is one of the few dedicated video-rental businesses left in Brooklyn and the only one in the Downtown area, and Hillis doesn’t think he’ll shed too many of his loyal customers with the move a mile away.

“I think we’ll have a pretty good retention,” said Hillis, who also works as a film journalist and for crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. “I hope people make the trek — it’s only one mile away, it’s not like we’re moving to another city.”

Alamo Drafthouse — an indie chain based in Austin, Texas — is known for unearthing and screening cult classics, so he also expects to pick up some new patrons amongst the film buffs who flock there.

“I feel like it’s already becoming a communal hub for cinephiles and I think the type of people who are going to come to Alamo Drafthouse are the people who are going to rent a movie on the way out,” he said.

He also plans to introduce an option for customers to return movies by mail, old-school Netflix style.

Not that Hillis has much time for the movie-streaming juggernaut — in fact, he is banking on sophisticated Kings County consumers eventually growing tired of its mainstream titles and venturing into his throwback store for something more stimulating.

“It’s very easy to click a button on your couch and have content appear before your eyes, but I think in a media-savvy culture like Brooklyn, people are just hungrier than that and don’t just want to watch monotonous television shows,” he said.

The last day for rentals at the Smith Street location will be Dec. 28 and the shop will close its doors on Dec. 29. It will reopen at Alamo Drafthouse sometime early next year.

Video Free Brooklyn [244 Smith St. between Douglass and Degraw streets in Cobble Hill, www.videofreebrooklyn.com, (718) 855–6130]. Mon–Fri 2 pm–10 pm.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: An earlier version of this story stated the video story has 1,200 movies. It actually has 12,000, which makes a lot more sense.
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Reasonable discourse

Elizabeth from Prospect Heights says:
Remember you can borrow for free DVDs and streamed time from all three library systems! Check their catalogs from home and place titles on hold for pick up! For example, NYPL (Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx) has 9 copies of Luis Bunuel's "Phantom of Liberty," one of the films Aaron is holding. Not trying to put him out of business, just reminding the public of this option. As taxpayers, you've already paid for it!
Dec. 16, 2016, 6:31 pm

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