Before, and even after, Redbox and Netflix existed, Howard Hughes Video in Moscow was a paradise for cinephiles.
An appliance business that started renting videos in the mid-’80s, Howard Hughes grew to become one of the largest independent video stores in the Northwest. Among its more than 30,000 titles was always the latest blockbuster, but the store was more revered for its collection of art house, foreign, cult and obscure films.
When Howard Hughes went up for sale in 2017, a grassroots group bought the movies and created the Main Street Video Cooperative, a nonprofit rental business downtown that continued to offer the movies to the community. In the midst of the pandemic shutdown, the co-op closed permanently March 31. Its Facebook page attributed the decision “to market realities.” Its collection of 32,000 titles was gifted to Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, which is now selling them on its website.
“We are working with local libraries, the Latah County Library, University of Idaho and some classrooms to donate some titles to their collections as well,” said Christine Gilmore, the center’s executive director. “They have indicated that whatever we have after the sales they will take. We have no idea what the sales will look like. We have no idea what people will be interested in.”
About “99.9 percent” of films in the collection are DVDs, Gilmore said. They are being sold for $2 each with a minimum of a $20 purchase.
“The co-op has become part of the community and a lot of people have come to rely on it for entertainment. We want to make it accessible for people,” Gilmore said.
Movies are being sold by genre with a new batch offered about every four days. Sales began last Thursday with action films, which featured 715 titles. Today is the last day for sales of anime films. Friday through Sunday “Apes/Alien/Predator” films will be for sale, and Monday through next Thursday classic sci-fi from what was once called “the nerd room” will be available.
Orders will be time stamped, and films will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis. The list of films for sale will be released one day prior to sales.
Gilmore and her staff are still working to catalog and organize the movies. Each genre has anywhere from 300 to more than 1000 titles, Gilmore said. They decided that selling them by genre was the best way for people to access the list without being overwhelmed.
“We are finding all of those random, weird movies as we put them together. We play a game as we go: ‘Who can find the craziest title?’.”
After all the genres have been listed online once, they plan to rerelease the lists again with films that haven’t sold, “to give it one final hurrah.” The remainder will go to the libraries.
“We’re really grateful the co-op entrusted it to us, and we’re trying to make it available to the public as easily and accessible as possible.”