Sunday, July 10, 2011
Movies Worth Seeing of Atlanta, GA. To paraphrase Mr. Arthur Conley: "Kings of them all, y'all".
In 1999, I got the best job I will ever have. And at a video store. The best video store in Atlanta. The de facto go-to, fight the man, I can't believe they're stocking this shit, this is why I moved from Jacksonville, Florida video store. It was all VHS back then. And it was beautiful.
I got the job because of Shawn Murphy. Shawn was working for Anne and Jerry Rubenstein, the visionaries of Movies Worth Seeing (MWS) (he put in a good word for me). They might not think they're visionaries but that's only because it's their style. Actually, most of their motavation in retrospect was probably like "Look, we'll stock the hits but for fuck's sake, you can't possibly want to watch that new shit constantly. We'll stock the classics, the weird and the wonderful and when FIREWALKER is checked out, we'll turn you onto DOWN BY LAW." And not in a pretentious way.
Anne and Jerry Rubenstein were successful, well-informed, down to earth entrepreneurs (hence, the store's longetivity) and equally as important, loved film. For them, it was commodity but they never treated the medium like widgets. And by that I mean, they knew they had to buy crap but they knew exactly how much crap to buy and be able to get the real unheralded treasures.
A lot of people opened up video rental stores during those Golden Days Of VHS. And a lot of them didn't get past the format wars of Beta vs. VHS much less the advent of DVD. By the time I moved to Atlanta, Mom and Pop stores were a thing of the past. For you kids today, next time you walk past some weird unlicensed-looking kiosk selling cellphones that has some remote tie to a major carrier, that was video rental in the 80's and for a few moments in the 90's. There was money to be made, but no soul. Those without soul perished to the Wal-Mart mentality of Blockbuster. Those that made it through that upheaval A) lived and did business in an area that was probably a large metropolitan city with a liberal, go-local mentality that embraced an alternative to the in-stock 400 copies of EXTREME MEASURES at corporate competitors or B) lived in a town so small that Blockbuster didn't even know they existed and therefore, had an open market. And you were lucky if if one of the two copies of EXTREME MEASURES was in.
Jesus H. Christ, I'm drunk.
But that's okay. Because last night in the city of Atlanta, there was a farewell/reunion that celebrated the legacy/closing of the oldest video store in Atlanta. Former employees and customers came together to pine, lament and be thankful they ever had such an opportunity to be a part of something so pure in spirit and heart yet payed the rent of a load of us who had the good fortune to be hired by the best bosses ever.
I wish I could've been there tonight. I wish I could've been there on the last night of operation. I wished it never closed at all.
When I found out about the closing of MWS, I wrote a note to Anne and Jerry for publication on their MWS Facebook page. Didn't post it. Dont know why. Didn't seem like the time or place. Today, it seems relevant for publication. So here goes:
Dear Anne and Jerry,
While the closure of Movies leaves everybody saddened and we all lament its demise, what many people don’t hear about is how well you treated your employees. Since leaving in 2004, I’ve been ruined by the concern, generosity and trust you showed me during the 5 years I was with you. You let me get away with shit most people in their right mind would’ve fired me for. But you weren’t crazy. I now believe you saw more worth in me than I saw in myself at the time and as I’ve gotten my stuff together (sort of) since I left, I’ve come to realize how incredible you two were and how damn lucky I was to be a part of your journey. Every employer I’ve worked for since I’ve compared you to and nobody, and I mean NOBODY, comes close. Hell, I now work for a corporate entity that basically treats me better than some “indie” business folk I’ve worked for since my days after MWS. But that’s the thing. Movies Worth Seeing was a different animal all the way around. The more I think about it, your success had nothing to do with the customers or employees. It was all you. You did everything right from the beginning. And the bunch of us nerdy cinematic malcontents love you more than you’ll ever know. I know I do.
Look, I’m not the guy who’s going to be carrying around your videos for you. But if you ever need me for something, I’ll be there.
Walter Hill told me to say that.
Your biggest fan,
Eric Matthew Harvey