Video treasures: How the iconic Kim’s Video returned to Manhattan

It’s the return of a video legend.

With Blockbuster already a memory in the late 2000s, Kim’s Video retail store was the East Village’s last bastion of physical, film media where Lower Manhattanites could browse an eye-watering selection of VHS tapes and DVDs. More than a mere video outlet, it was a cultural icon for many who spent weekends browsing its vast catalog and discussing cinema favorites with new friends, before returning home with a pizza for a movie night.

In 2014, the last location of Kim’s Video joined its peers in falling victim to the almighty streaming service, marking the end to an East Village icon. However, nearly a decade later after an international journey, the collection is back and available to rent for free.

The iconic Kim’s logo. Photo by Dean Moses

In the lower level of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema located at 28 Liberty Street, Nick Prueher stood surrounded by VHS tapes, DVDs, classic movie posters, and a fuchsia sign reading “Kim’s Video.” Prueher was instrumental in bringing the collection back to the area and curating it for the public.

“I was a Kim’s customer when I first moved to New York in the late 90s. I found Kim’s Video and was just sort of blown away,” Prueher said, recalling how he once browsed the shelves.

After the initial closure, the story of Kim’s Video collection could be made into a movie itself. According to Prueher, the vast media library could only be taken with the promise that it would be available to the public, which sent it on a voyage to Italy.

The shelves at Kim’s Video are lined with rare and unique films. Photo by Dean Moses
The shelves at Kim’s Video are lined with rare and unique films. Photo by Dean Moses

“The founder was looking for a permanent home and his stipulation was that the collection couldn’t be broken apart. He [Kim] cared about what happened to this. It wasn’t just a bunch of plastic,” Prueher said. “So, he got an offer from a town called Salemi in Sicily. And they said they would take the collection, and all got shipped over there. And it was supposed to be on public view and available to everyone but within a year the mayor there who was spearheading the project, had alleged mafia charges and was ousted from office. It’s like a movie.”

With the collection once again without a home, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema acquired the large stock and with the aid of Prueher began to curate an exhibition showcasing hundreds of DVDs and VHS tapes, yet this is not a mere visual display of covers and box art. This new iteration of Kim’s Video also rents out the films and even VCRs for free. Due to such a vast catalog, the films will be cycled through to ensure there is always something new to discover.

Nestled amongst frames upon frames of classic movie posters and iconic film replicas such as a Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, but more than the aesthetics, Prueher says there is a chance to uncover media that can’t be found anywhere else. With some of the tapes never having been transferred to DVD or uploaded online, making this collection one of the last places they can be found.

Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. Photo by Dean Moses

“You can watch almost anything on your phone now. To find something that can’t be found, something that isn’t available anywhere else. It’s almost more tantalizing, more enticing. So, I think that’s really the draw here. And it’s a curated collection. I mean, we certainly tried to honor the legacy of Kim’s with all the genres and there’s 461 different genres that are represented here,” Prueher said.

Starting May 22 at 7:30 pm, Prueher will be hosting a talk while showcasing various clips from the collection in a podcast style. Tickets can be purchased online.

“It’s just a good place to hang out. You can get a beer upstairs, bring it down, browse through the collection and take something home,” Prueher said.

Nick Prueher describes the magic of discovering an unknown film. Photo by Dean Moses
Staff processed VHS rental returns. Photo by Dean Moses