Santa Monica’s Vidiots, one of the few surviving movie rental stores in L.A. and a long-beloved destination for film buffs, is celebrating a major milestone this November: three decades in business. Co-owners Cathy Tauber and Patty Polinger are throwing the first annual Vidiotsfest to honor the occasion and remind Los Angeles that a film industry town needs a film industry emporium.
Tauber and Polinger started the store with 800 VHS tapes in 1985. Once word spread about the cool spot on Pico that hosted appearances from local directors and took customer requests for avant-garde titles, its fan base—and rare stock—grew. Vidiots became an extensive archive and an artist destination, where anyone from obsessive cineasts to industry bigwigs (Quentin Tarantino, Dennis Hopper, and Oliver Stone have been regulars) could hang out and talk shop.
Then came Netflix queues, Redbox rentals, and Hulu binges, which made trips to the video store a quaint memory. In the late aughts Vidiots was struggling financially. Filmmaker and longtime customer David O. Russell stepped in, helping transform the space into a nonprofit institution by February 2014. Still, it needed funds to survive. “I reached out to Megan Ellison, my producer and collaborator, and said, ‘Would you please help?’ ” Russell says. “This is a place where a culture of cinephiles thrives—just a great place to go.” Ellison (Her, American Hustle), along with a Vidiots fan named Dr. Leonard M. Lipman, made a donation earlier this year that allowed the doors to remain open.
This month’s events, ranging from discussions with director Michael Mann (The Last of the Mohicans, Ali) on November 13 to a showing of vintage cartoons on November 15, hark back to Vidiots’ early ethos: It is the people’s video store and will remain such for as long as we’ll have it. Now the owners have a chance to focus on the future. “We’re feeling like this is a rebirth,” Tauber says.
Take a look below to see the Vidiotsfest schedule in full.