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In Age Of Online Streaming, Best Video Is A Neighborhood Institution In Hamden

Diane Orson

Remember when video stores seemed as ubiquitous as the corner grocery store? Today, few have been able to survive the onslaught of Netflix and online streaming.

One small shop in Hamden is still here. For 30 years it's been a place for film buffs to gather and talk movies.

"There’s all sorts of gems to be discovered," said Hank Hoffman, programming director for Best Video Film And Cultural Center.  "We have literally hundreds of director sections. We have Oscar sections, both winners and losers. We have large classic and silent film sections, we have film noire, a tremendous foreign film collection."

Best Video began in the mid-1980s as a small for-profit video rental store and quickly became a neighborhood institution known for its 30,000-plus titles and knowledgeable staff.  But as pressures from instant when-you-want-it, where-you-want-it streaming threatened the store’s existence, local fans came together and created a not-for-profit. 

"In the meantime, we had been adapting to the times by starting to scheduling live music, scheduling live screenings, literary events in the space, building on the neighborhood and community feel that was always essential to Best Video and essential to its identity," Hoffman said. 

And though the community continues to support for the not-for-profit, it's not easy. Streaming still has a major impact on Best Video’s bottom line. But Hoffman sees the desire for real world interactions.

"As life continues to migrate into the virtual world, I think we are losing something. Particularly, communities and neighborhoods are losing something," Hoffman said. "And what we have with our music events, with our film screening events, is this personal relationship -- people to their neighbors, to people who are producing culture."

Hoffman said Best Video will keep innovating to stay afloat because on an almost daily basis, he sees clients continue to experience those serendipitous moments, when browsing the archive they stumble across a movie some online algorithm might never have delivered.

Diane Orson is a special correspondent with Connecticut Public. She is a longtime reporter and contributor to National Public Radio. Her stories have been heard on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Here And Now. Diane spent seven years as CT Public Radio's local host for Morning Edition.

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