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Santa Monica’s Vidiots Emerges with New Programs, Broader Vision

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

September 30, 2015 -- Months after nearly becoming another victim of the Netflix era, Vidiots in Santa Monica is broadening its vision and picking up a renewed buzz in the film community, store officials announced Tuesday.

What started as a store devoted to movie rentals has progressed into a hub for film buffs that offers a wide range of industry-related programs, including monthly movie screenings and an upcoming question and answer session with director Michael Mann, according to store representatives.

Operated now as the nonprofit Vidiots Foundation, the iconic store’s wider embrace is meant to also broaden its financial base, said Jessie Nagel, a public relations official associated with the store.

“As big as the film community is in L.A., there’s still a need for independent movies and a place to screen them,” Nagel said. “Vidiots is helping to fill that void.  It’s really exciting.”

Though the store’s selection still totals some 50,000 titles, including vintage, foreign, documentary and international films, its newly renovated Vidiots Annex will become, for one weekend a month, a small movie house, the foundation announced.

The new Cinema Selects micro-cinema will present special limited runs of new, independent films chosen by Vidiots' staff, Nagel said. The debut film will be “The Mend” from writer/director John Magary, starring Josh Lucas, Stephen Plunkett, Lucy Owen and Mickey Sumner.

Nagel said the Cinema Selects program is upping the ante by “seeking out and presenting unique, daring and entertaining films that demand to be seen on a big screen” with an audience. “Vidiots Cinema Selects will bring the theatrical experience inside the video store,” she said.

The store is also hosting comedy improv nights, comedy improv “smash” labs, trivia nights in October and an evening with Mann, who directed such movies as “Heat,” “The Insider,”  “Collateral” and “Public Enemies.”

That’s a big leap for a store that was opened on a shoestring budget in 1985 by two best friends who loved movies, Cathy Tauber and Patty Pollinger. The Santa Monica storefront near City Hall quickly became a popular venue for film connoisseurs searching for that obscure title.

But by January, the store at 302 Pico Boulevard was so financially drained by the popularity of film distribution sites on the internet that its owners worried it would have to close in April if a savior couldn’t be found.

Their prayers were answered with a last-minute donation from Megan Ellison, a well-known independent film producer.  The owners never had to shut down, but they were forced to re-imagine its purpose and offerings, Nagel said.

The foundation’s new vision also includes expanding its reach and community involvement through partnerships with community organizations, schools, filmmakers, artists and educators by providing free classes, screenings, panel discussions, spoken word, live music and other cultural events.

The store continues to seek out sponsors, offering memberships that start at $100 a year.

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