CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – In a world where many have a Ph.D. in old school, movie lovers and buffs gravitate toward a venue where they can “be kind” and “rewind” again.
“A lot of people do love VHS,” Matt Christiansen of VisArt Video in east Charlotte said, which is a kind of blockbuster idea for a nonprofit, as in something resembling the once-ubiquitous Blockbuster Video stores.
They have an archive of 40,000 movies including DVD, Blu-Ray, and some two thousand VHS titles.
“VHS-Yes!” some might say.
This place boasts the largest collection on the East Coast. Decades past its prime, the VHS format is pure nostalgic magic.
“Oh, that sound!” QC News Photojournalist Stewart Pittman noted while capturing footage of a cassette being played in a VCR at the site.
Christiansen is a VisArt clerk and outreach director and says VHS fans embrace every imperfection.
“A lot of people like the sound quality,” he said. “If you’re watching like an old horror movie, that graininess, that feel of it… it fits.”
The store rents and sells the vintage and hard-to-find.
“Up front, there are some shelves by the Ms. Pac-Man Machine,” Christiansen said, directing customer Bob Beach to the titles for sale.
“When someone comes in for VHS, you know them right away,” the veteran VHS purveyor told us.
Bob Beach scours the shelves using his eyes and his hands as he examined the spine of the tapes. He’s been an avid collector since 2010.
“I decided I was gonna get 100 movies… It got out of hand,” he tried to explain, eventually confessing that he has 5,000 flicks in his collection.
“This makes sure I don’t buy something twice,” said Beach, showing us a worn paper list of what he currently owns.
Some tapes can still be valuable.
This month, a sealed VHS version of “Back to the Future” reportedly sold for a whopping $75,000 at auction.
This independent video store first opened at another Charlotte location 40 years ago. But there are lofty goals ahead for VisArt, which became a nonprofit in 2020 supporting education and the “passion for all things movies.”
Gina Stewart is the executive director.
“But we are now a film archive, we’re a home for filmmakers — particularly in this area. We seek to provide a community service and education about film,” said executive director Gina Stewart.
Sometimes, we could all use a blast from the past.
“I mean there are still new films that come out, that there will be special editions on VHS just to give you that nostalgic feel,” Christiansen says.
“This was a film that came out just a few years ago with Nicolas Cage called Colorado Space,” he said, pointing out a 2019 release.
Long ago, most moved on to the next best thing. But folks here believe the tales via the tape still have a place.
Even so, the hard-hitting questions weren’t left on the cutting room floor.
“Are people kind? Do they rewind?” I asked Christiansen.
“Yeah, haha… most of the time!” he replied.