by Jenny Anastasoff
Good day, West End News readers. I may know some of you from Facebook, or the West End Neighborhood Association. My thanks to Tony Zeli for a forum to indulge my Videoport musings.
A city is always in flux, but sometimes big changes seem to happen all at once. This solemn summer, several Portland institutions are closing or morphing.
Our beloved downtown video store, Videoport, closed August 15th, and this particular loss conjures up complex, nostalgic emotions. The store opened 28 years ago, at the same time I graduated from a local high school. My entire adult knowledge of my city involves Videoport. It has “always” been there.
Trying to explain its importance to a friend, I was met with, aren’t you exaggerating its value? My response then and now is, no.
Having Videoport was crucial to my personal and cultural development. Movies are my thing, I need cinema and its people in my daily life. I am a filmmaker, actor, and true cinephile. I like film for its community, its implicit audience.
A great video store like Videoport had curators, experts to guide its viewers. Then the internet gave us virtual communities to discuss film, and unfortunately over the years, streaming decimated the store model.
As the online shift continues, communal film experiences remain only with “major” studio offerings, and indie cinemas for the ardent few.
Having a collection of Videoport’s scope, with cinephile employees and customers of this caliber, has meant the world, assuring me of the importance of diverse cinema.
Videoport has also been huge in supporting and promoting the Maine film scene. What an amazing feeling to see a locally-made film on a store shelf: Efram & Kyle’s films; Corey & Haley’s films; Damnationland… picking up the case, turning it over, seeing your name… surreal. Essential validation that we are making films that will be curated, that we could find an audience, that our work is more than ephemeral.
An initiation rite to being my friend was a visit to Videoport. A yellow tag on a keychain was a secret handshake.
Many moons ago, one of the first dates with a big love involved our mutual affection for a film. We ran through a blizzard, found the DVD at Videoport, and cherished the screening, made reference to it for years.
During the store’s final week, I purchased a previously viewed rental copy of that film as a token. Although it’s not the same copy I ran through a snowstorm for, it evokes those magical moments. I suspect many have similar stories, of movie night dates, or seeing friends in the aisles, our brick city loves made manifest.
As consumers and citizens, we shape our city environment with our choices and actions. We know by now that convenience reigns. We choose options that expend the least effort in that moment without considering long-term, larger consequences.
Videoport was one of the last holdouts of the quintessential video store in the nation. Its closure diminishes our city experience.
Netflix is not a community, it does not challenge, it spoon-feeds bland dreck based on what you’ve already viewed.
The silver lining is the noble, generous decision to donate much of Videoport’s collection to the public library. We can hope Portland film lovers will soon support and use the library, perusing its expanded collection.
If you have resources to give, please consider donating funds to the library, to assist with processing the films. Beyond Videoport, if there is another dear local institution that you’ve not frequented, please consider what you can resolve to do to ensure they thrive.
I’ve read many nostalgic Facebook posts lately, yet words alone such as mine do not keep a business going. Please, please go out of your way, frequent local businesses and save our city from corporate cultural hegemony.
Local hardware stores, sandwich shops, dive bars, bookstores, thrift shops… give them your time and love. If Portland changes into a disconnected, vapid, inauthentic shell of itself, we citizens are also to blame.
Thanks, Videoport, for enriching my life. I would not be who I am without you. I miss you already.
Jenny grew up in the Portland area, and is a graduate of Georgetown and McGill Universities. Besides being an ardent West Ender, she is an advocate for the Maine film community. As an actor or behind the scenes, you may have spotted her name in local productions. Jenny is also in the Dumpster Hall of Fame for her frequent shenanigans.