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The last video store closes

From Bill Dwight (video clerk, ret.), Springfield, Mass:

The last video store on planet Earth handed out it's final rental on July 3rd. Pleasant St. Video is rolling credits after twenty-five years.

Of course, we could see it coming... like the dinosaurs staring at the beautiful furious meteor streaking across the sky... after acknowledging the phenomenon we went back to our daily business which we did pretty well... reasonably resigned to the fact that there wasn't a damn thing we could do about our inevitable extinction.

There are a lot of ignominious ways to close out a business. We could go out whining and blame the internet or the world's cruel behavior. Or we could have a blow-out kiss-our-ass-good-bye sale of anything and everything... from refrigerator magnets to the dust bunnies from the ceiling fan.

But, those options don't work for us. While we may not have much... we do have a sense of dignity and a sense of community and... a distinct sense of pride.

We did a good thing. We collected a remarkable archive of the best films ever to transmit light over the course of the last quarter century. Our inventory is the product of love, obsession and scholarship. Cinephiles named John Morrison, Richard Pini and Dana Gentes curated a peerless archive. I know you all know this (this is a form letter, if you haven't picked up on that yet and I'm sorry if it's a repeat). I just feel like bragging.

So, with those constraints we were left with one simple, elegant and inspired solution. We approached the public library in Northampton, the Forbes Library, and asked if they could raise the money to buy the lot. They were excited to try and thrilled with the prospect of offering a comprehensive catalog of film to... not only the people of Northampton and neighborhoods.... but for the region... the entire state, via inter-library loan... for people and places that don't have access or the bandwidth to see these great things.

The social networking phenomenon took over. The damn thing's gone manic. It started innocently enough, when a woman came and asked to donate a specific title in her father's name for Father's Day (It was "The Jerk" which is probably another story). Now, people are in a frenzy... donating to preserve stars, directors, genres and themes.

So... here's the "ask" part: Many of you have already contributed to this.... I'm just asking you to alert any film fans you know who would consider this effort worthy or cool. For $8 per title they can dedicate a gift of a film they feel deserves to be preserved and available for the public to see.

Have them go to our website catalog to see what's left (there's a total of over 8,000 to choose from) and then make a donation at the Forbes donation page.

It's that simple. Well, it's not all that simple, I realize... but we're trying to keep up with the organic evolution of this fundraiser. It's designing itself.

Thanks for considering this. It cuts the curse of losing something personally significant. The enthusiasm and comments from the community reaffirm my absurd choice of remaining a video clerk for two and a half decades. I love where I work and I love what I do. And I'm not looking forward to expressing that sentiment in the past tense.

Please feel free to forward the hell out of this.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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