New York City cinephiles of the ’80s, ’90s, and early aughts invariably flocked to Kim’s Video, a set of movie rental stores whose flagship branch, Mondo Kim’s, was located on St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. Kim’s Video offered films from around the world, including all sorts of rare unreleased, underground, and bootleg titles that, in many cases, you literally couldn’t find anywhere else. It was a treasure trove (55,000+ titles!) of the mainstream, the independent, and the just plain insane, and the fact that it was staffed by knowledgeable clerks who ranged from friendly to hostile (and who went on to become filmmakers themselves, like Robert Greene and Sean Price Williams) only added to its encyclopedic punk-rock mystique.
So when the digital revolution forced Kim’s Video to close, an entire Manhattan film culture wept—and scratched its head over the fact that its owner, Yongman Kim, had agreed to donate the store’s entire collection to the small Sicilian town of Salemi. Before long, a mystery arose: What had happened to all of those beloved VHS tapes and DVDs?
Kim’s Video has the answer—and, amazingly, it’s a saga straight out of the movies, replete with corrupt politicians, daring heists, and the Italian mafia.