Farewell to Videology: How a Brooklyn Stronghold Changed the Cult Movie Canon
After 15 years, New York cinephiles will bid farewell to Videology, a cinema and bar that foregrounded women-centric films and attracted visitors from Sam Elliott to Emma Stone.
When Videology, a home-away-from-home for New York City film lovers, announced last week that it would be shutting its doors after its annual Halloween festivities, tributes poured in. Visitors lamented the loss of a neighborhood haunt, a film event space, a Tuesday trivia night retreat. “When I moved to New York, I went there all the damn time,” wrote Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, a cartoonist for the New Yorker, in a strip on Medium. “It’s devastating to hear that they’re closing their doors.”
Once only a video store, Videology expanded into its current bar-and-cinema form in 2012. On October 28, it will shutter for good. Over its 15 years of existence, the multi-hyphenate space curated a warm, welcoming atmosphere that pushed the boundaries of cult cinema and attracted a slew of prominent film world visitors, from Paul Dano to Sam Elliott to Emma Stone. Trivia nights, which happened every Tuesday, were particularly popular—Emma Stone rolled in for one that was Parks and Rec-themed.
“The fact that it’s a bar lends itself very well to having conversations and kind of gives it an easygoing nature,” said Forrest Cardamenis, who worked at Videology as a film and events programmer since August 2016. “People can talk and hang out. Not during the movie—definitely not during the movie.”
Videology is also unique for its attention to female-oriented programming, which can be difficult to come by in a city, and industry, where film canons are often shaped by men.
“Cult cinema is a huge thing in Brooklyn in general, but I think that we were even able to change the canon of what we consider cult cinema,” said Videology’s Creative Director Madeleine Tangney, who added that she and her programming assistant Shayana Filmore sought to bring to centerstage “movies that more women grew up with that have been ignored.” In August, Videology hosted several singalong screenings of Brandy’s 1997 Cinderella that Tangney said sold out each time.
Owners James Leet and Wendy Chamberlain maintain that the cinema’s closing was a voluntary choice and not compelled by business or rent demands, but it’s difficult not to take Videology as a casualty of a revamped Williamsburg. Videology is small, which makes it cozy, and niche, which makes it special—but situated in the heart of an increasingly costly, sleek, and corporate neighborhood, these aren’t exactly qualities that ensure survival.
“This entire city is becoming a playground for the rich, and anything that doesn’t cater to that is kind of always struggling to survive,” said Cardamenis.
The story of changing neighborhoods and dwindling culture is one that’s as old as the city, and particularly endemic to the entertainment world. When the final Lower East Side outpost of Kim’s Video, a rental store for film and music that became something of an artistic empire, closed in 2014, it signaled a shift in Manhattan’s capacity to accommodate esoteric interests. As ultra-modernity spreads east across the river—not to mention the L Train’s imminent shutdown—Williamsburg may be suffering a similar fate.
Still, New York City doesn’t seem to be having much trouble maintaining movie theaters; if anything, they’re cropping up at record speed. Recent years have seen the introduction of Metrograph on the Lower East Side, Alamo Drafthouse in Downtown Brooklyn, and Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village, all of which include a bar (or even a full-on restaurant) along with their screens.
But Videology is distinct in that its bar scene is intimate and casual. There’s a warm rapport among the customers and staff that stems from close quarters and a long-established home in the neighborhood. In spiffy new spaces—many of which are lucky enough to be backed by wealthy benefactors—that community feeling can be difficult to reproduce.
“The New York indie film scene is strong, and I have faith it will recover from what right now certainly feels like a devastating loss,” Tangney said. “But it’s truly humbling to to hear how much Videology meant to the community, and reaffirming to hear that we were successful in fostering such a supportive and encouraging home for filmmakers, scholars, and cinephiles in what can be a bit of a cut-throat industry and city.”