Video stores occupy a unique place in the American cultural imagination. It’s unlikely enough that a video store would remain in business in 2019, nearly a decade after that industry’s nearly complete collapse. PhillyVoice visited Viva Video last week and talked to its managers about the store’s founding, how it stays in business, and its road toward a possible place on cable TV. Walking into Viva Video feels a lot stepping off a time machine into 2002. Known as “The Last Picture Store,” Viva Video grew out of TLA Video, the much-loved local video store chain that closed its last store in October of 2012. There are still distributors in business, to which Viva Video goes for new releases, while Gomez sometimes takes to eBay or other venues in order to obtain rare films for the store’s collection. James Doolittle, a local filmmaker and videographer who is a longtime customer of the store, actually came up with the idea of a TV show set in the store, and pursued the project through his company All Ages Productions. The reality TV project had a few years of fits and starts, including a “VHS sleepover” in which Doolittle brought a crew to film the Viva Video community watching VHS horror movies in their basement.
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