Video Out-Takes Rides Into the Sunset

 

 

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If you are a Quentin Tarantino fanatic, you might recognize the name Video Out-Takes as having a “who begat what” relationship with Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.video-out-takes-001.jpg

In 1979, Tarantino’s now-estranged writing partner Roger Avary took a job at what was then a new and innovative business, a video-rental store called Video Out-Takes in Redondo Beach. Video Out-Takes was co-owned by Lance Lawson, who then broke off and founded Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, taking Avary with him. Tarantino became a loyal patron and employee of Video Archives, and a friend of Avary’s.

When VHS and Beta movies first appeared, the studios assumed people would buy them like books and LPs. By offering what were supposed to be end-consumer products for rent, the first video stores had a kind of “is this legal?” feel about them. Stores like Video Out-Takes and Video Archives provided the first opportunity for fans to see classic movies, cult movies, foreign movies, on demand in their living rooms–or in the case of Avary and Tarantino, on the TV monitor at the store when business was slow.

I never went to Video Archives, so I missed my chance to meet Tarantino in his pre-fame geekdom. However I was a Video Out-Takes customer for 25 years. My mother is a movie-lover, so she was willing to shell out what it took to buy a VHS player when the technology was still new and too expensive for me; and Video Out-Takes was her source. I lived an hour away in Los Angeles, but would sometimes come home on weekends just to rent movies and watch them in my parents’ den.

When I moved back to the South Bay in 1992, one of my first stops was to buy a discount card at Video Out-Takes. In addition to the movies I was interested in, Video Out-Takes had a great collection of Disney cartoons and obscure movies for kids — videos that had long gone out of print and could only be found there. My son and step-son loved to browse through dusty shelves full of faded clam-shell boxes to claim movies like Old Yeller, The Three Caballeros and The Best of Beany & Cecil.

Video Out-Takes was an oasis for people who loved movies of every genre — from art-house to slasher. You could tell that before you even walked in the door, from looking at the bizarre murals on the side wall: Elvis riding a pink Cadillac with Chucky…John Wayne taking E.T. for a ride. These murals as well as a faded collection of steamy lobby cards for obscure films noirs can still be seen if you visit the storefront on PCH, but probably not for much longer.

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Video Out-Takes survived competition from giant chains like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video because of the depth of its offerings (which apparently also included a large porn collection secreted behind a false wall). It made the transition to DVDs fairly seamlessly.

Perhaps Netflix delivered the coup de grace, because like Video Out-Takes, the online service provides access to a huge collection suiting many tastes. However, when I visited the store last night, I saw an announcement for a public hearing on converting the site to a “commercial condominium.” It might just be that the landlord sold the store out from under them, and the owner didn’t have the energy to relocate.

What Video Out-Takes had that Netflix does not was its collection of old VHS tapes dating back to the beginning of the technology. Hundreds of titles got issued on VHS — once. These are titles that aren’t on DVD and might never be. The images and sound were starting to fade on these tapes, but at least you could see them. I was on my way to look for an out-of-print VHS title like that when I discovered the store was closed.

That was a great cinematic library: Where is it now?

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(One buried treasure I need to mention: Lou Bunin’s Alice in Wonderland, a stop-motion animation “puppetoon” combined with live action that came out in 1950, the same year as Walt Disney’s more famous version. The Disney lawyers managed to suppress Bunin’s charming rendition of Lewis Carroll’s tale, allegedly threatening film labs and theater chains so that it barely reached U.S. screens. However, at some point in the late 70s, it was issued on VHS, and Video Out-Takes had it. I stumbled across it and thought my son might like it — and boy did he! That movie became the central focus of his life for several years, inspiring hundreds of drawings. We must have rented it 25 times, until finally we made a copy of it, fearing the rental tape might get stolen…or that something like this would happen.)

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22 thoughts on “Video Out-Takes Rides Into the Sunset

  1. Wow, so Video Out-Takes is gone. That’s really too bad. What’s next, Go-Boy Records? It was one of the gems that made that odd stretch of Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach so interesting. I recall once going there looking for a copy of “Our Man in Havana.” They didn’t have it for rent, but they had it for loan. Apparently, they bolstered their archives by taping hard-to-find classics off cable, which they then would loan to members for free. See if Netflix will do that for you.

  2. Thanks so much for posting this. As a teenager I rented 2-3 movies a night from Video Out-Takes, ploughing through their cult, science fiction, horror and foreign sections, with deep pleasure. I discovered my love for Ralph Bakshi, David Lynch, Wim Wenders and a host of other filmmakers that changed the way I look at film.

    My favourite Video Out-Takes memory is when I repeatedly tried to rent my what has since become by favourite film, Until the End of the World, but it was never in stock. Someone had apparently stolen it or forgot to return it. Years later, drunk and unable to sleep on a friend’s couch, I decided to dig through thier videos looking for something to help me count sheep. There it was, the stolen Until the End of the World, which has been mine ever since.

  3. Garrison, thanks for the mention on your site. My wife had the exact same experience with “Light in the Piazza,” the late 50s romance set in Rome which was unavailable on video anywhere. Video Out-Takes didn’t have a commercial video, but had taped it off a TV broadcast just so they could loan it out to fans. (Of course, now it’s a big title because of the B’way musical based on the film.) My wife was overjoyed to be able to see it again. The same guy who could talk knowledgably about an old movie like this could talk with equal authority and passion to the next customer about silent films, the next one about martial-arts movies, and the next one about sci-fi. The store was for film fans, not just film snobs.

  4. I am incredibly sad V.O. is out of business! It wasn’t the movies that made this place great but the guys who ran the store! These were REAL movie guys who would suggest a great cult flic every time I went in.

    Thank you Dean & Tony (aka BOWFINGER)! I sure hope you reconsider and open up somewhere else. The South Bay needs more culture than the bland Blockbuster & Netflix options.

    Am I going to ask the pimply faced 12 year old at blockbuster what he thinks of “Quiet Earth” ? I don’t think so.

    Chris King

  5. OK, if you all want to hear the full deal on what happened at VO: over a decade ago Dean (short, old cat with cap who looked like a tugboat captain), the original owner, was in financial trouble, and needed money, so he sold the property and business to Tony (younger, bearded, big gut and glasss) to take care of his financial difficulties in the process becoming Tony’s employee. Flash forward a decade: Tony’s entire extended family has moved to Colorado and, understandably, he misses them and wishes to relocate. So he takes advantage of real estate prices to sell the piece of land for THREE TIMES wha he paid for it ($250K becomes $750K, nice, huh?). So alright, he bought an institution, and now he is uprooting it for personal gain…clearly a guy who is thinking in terms of business and profitability, and not the well-being of the neighborhood’s video and dvd needs. Still, OK. But the thing I will never forgive him for is this: he could have sold the inventory to a guy who wanted to move the store to another location, but because said guy did not offer Tony quite as much as he thought the inventory was worth, he let it all be sold off piecemeal, Video Outtakes became a thing of the past, and so Tony will forever be remembered by me as a worthless scumbag for whom a half-million dollar profit was not enough. For a lousy $10K (relatively speaking) he let the store die. For that, I hope he has eternal (or a least intermittent) indigestion whenever he puts a dvd or video in to watch. There, I said it.

  6. Go Boy IS in fact closing. Last day of business is December 26, 2006. That leaves no record stores in the South Bay, unless you count that Wherehouse that may or may not be open by North High on PCH.

  7. I did not realize Video Out Takes had closed. I have called and called and tonight I finally found this article. I still had credit in the store, and they never bothered to let me know they were closing. I live in Lomita and although I go to Redondo Beach to visit my sister, I usually go PCH to Prospect or I would have noticed that it was closed. I’m sorry for this, but I’m also sorry I lost my credit.

    If someone would like to contact me, they can write to Haruko44@yahoo.com.

    Thank you.
    Lila Takayanagi

  8. To the dude who had the friend who stole from Video Outtakes…

    Your friends are assholes. And so are you for keeping that film. If you were decent, you would have returned it.

    Thieves suck balls.

  9. The timing of Dean’s sale to Tony sounds as though it coincided roughly with Dean’s divorce. Dean and his wife and their fluffy white cat ran the place in its early years.

    The problem with their collection at the end is that they seemed to have lost control of parts of it. I went in at one point last year looking for a Monty Python tape. They knew they had it; the tape jacket was out on a display shelf, folded up along with many other jackets; but the tape, itself, was unavailable. I suppose that with 40,000 videos, it’s not hard to lose track of things.

  10. I believe Dave Smith has the wrong information about the closing of V.O. I knew Tony (the owner) and he never would have closed the store if it wasn’t for customer’s not coming in anymore. He loved working there and talking to his customer’s about movies and such. What did the store in was “lack of customer’s”. He said that his “regulars” came in occassionaly and were using Netflix instead. So he had to borrow money from his brother in Denver just to pay the bills. As far as selling the business, that person turned out to be a crook and had no intention of reopening the store. He was looking for a tax scheme. So put yourself in his shoes, would you keep putting money into a sinking ship? I don’t think so. As far as Dean is concerned, he didn’t help matters by acting rude to customer’s. I was there one night when a customer asked him a question and he gave him a rude answer, all because he was interrupted from his TV show he was watching. So this Dave guy really dosen’t know what he talking about. As far as the inventory goes, he donated it to the Palos Verdes Library.

  11. I worked in Torrance for 3 years, but I only realized the store was there the last year and a half. Previously, I’d go to Cinefile (out of my way but near the freeway) for my mondo VHS/DVD needs. When I walked into Video Outakes, my jaw dropped. It seemed they had everything that came out on video or dvd since the beginning. Too bad I caught up with them on their last year, but I have great movie memories. Being the cine-freak I am I rented anything that had a Terry Southern credit at that time. I remember looking on the shelves for “End of the Road.” No luck, I asked for it and they said, “Yeah, don’t ask where the box is,” and produced said obscure, but official, tape. ” I miss such a resource. I actually think place like that has historical importance in that it documents all the releases from the beginning of this media to now. That shift to owning a film as opposed to catching it at a theater has definitely affected our culture. I miss them and I will visit the Palos Verde library ASAP. I hope they kept the porno section intact for us civic patrons!

  12. Paul Lipari has it wrong too… I have have known Dean for 30 years and know the whole story. Tony sold the property for money, and was a ROTTEN business man. Yes, Dean sold VOT to Tony after the divorce due to money trouble. Bottom line Tony would not sell the inventory back to Dean so he could open a new store and it was not donated in lot.

  13. It’s been almost three years and I still cannot get over the fact that VOT no longer exists. It is so sad to drive by and see the new building in it’s place. My husband and I had been loyal customers since the mid 90’s. We miss that place so much. There was a period of time that I would drive from Palos Verdes to Redondo Beach almost every night to rent from Dean as he always had the best recommendations on the latest new foreign release. He understood my my taste in movies better than my own husband! We often wonder how he is doing. BTW: It is a fact that some of the titles were donated to the Palos Verdes Library and we are so thankful for that.

  14. It now seems so long ago that the store closed up and yet it seems like only yesterday. I check this comments page once or twice a year to read any updated comments. I had been a customer there for many years and I knew both Dean and Tony and I’m very heartbroken to hear people leave such negative comments. All I know is that Video Outtakes was perhaps the best video store ever and possibly in the worst location ever. Other video stores of this nature are still in business despite the recent economy or Netfilx. It seems that the neighborhood was the one that let Video Outtakes down, not the other way around. I heard that from both Tony and Dean. More of their customers where either using Netflix or Blockbuster more than there neighborhood store. So if you have a dip in sales and can’t pay your bills, why stay in business if only a handful of people are going to stay loyal. Makes perfect enconmic sesnse.
    The last time I walked in to VOT was during the fire sale after they stopped renting and I talked with Tony and his helper, I think his name was Evan or Ethan, something like that, anyways, Tony said that he had more people showing up to buy off his inventory in the 2 weeks he was open then anytime in the past 10 years of business. What does that say about us. We couldn’t find time to rent a moive from our local indie store, but we could find the time to canniblize his store. Corporate america is alive and well.
    One thing that Anonymous got wrong about the sale of VOT, I know this first hand since I was there to witness this, Dean and his lawyer friend had tried to steal the store away from Tony. There were a series of back-up discs that they used after the end of each night which would back up all the information in the computer should it crash. Tony showed me how the “Sunday” disc was missing, the one Dean used on his last day there knowing that Wednesday was the last day that Tony would use to back up information. By having that back up disc you have the “Business” without having to purchase it, all you need is the inventory and voilla, your in business. Something intresting that Tony’s helper said, and is backed up the California Bar Ass. is that the lawyer was suspended by the Bar for 1 year for ’96 counts of money laundering’. Makes sense why he would want to buy a business that didn’t make money.
    Tony has been living in Denver for about 3 years now and isn’t around to defend himself from the truth that Dean wants you to hear.

  15. Every time I drive past the former location of Video Outtakes I think of the old days. Dean, Tony the atmosphere inside the cramp little store and the gazillion titles stacked inside. The store was irreplaceable as the comments of others show. I still have the tattered red plastic membership card I was given 30 years ago. I have long since forgotten the number of nights I stopped in the store to check out new titles or root through the stacks for some old gem. Dean was a crotchity old bugger, and I used to love starting an argument with him just to get him going. We argued religion and US foreign ploicy and anything else that popped up. We always got along. I also know Tony, am a friend of his and still communicate regularly with him in Denver. He is a stand up guy and hated to give up the store. The acrimony that has ensued between Dean, Tony and now the customers left behind is unfortunite, but considering the circumstances , understandable. Tony and Dean are still working out the final legal wranglings, but to the rest of us; it’s over. The one thing we can all agree on are the memories. I was lucky, Tony gave me some of the stores displays and posters at the end. I see them every night in my family room. I keep trying to find the movie NO TIME FOR SERGENTS, wish I would have bought it then.

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  19. Crazy to read all the comments. I worked at VOT for years in the early 90’s. My folks had been customers since 81 or 82. I pretty much grew up there. I loved Dean to death. He was like a 2nd dad really. I remember how much he hated his wife! She was pretty nasty. What was her name??? Arlene maybe. Her son worked there too. Wasn’t a fan. I worked there with Vesta and a few others. Dean actually hooked me up with an internship with Quentin Tarantino. Anyways I enjoyed reading the comments. I miss Dean and VOT…

    • Matt,

      I used to be friends with Dean’s Wife’s son, Mark Douglas. Mark would later claim he was involved with Vesta, too. But to paint a proper picture for the readers, Video Out takes had a massive porn section also, which was quite popular. I would go over to Dean’s house quite a bit, Mark had a full music studio in the Manhattan Beach home with Drums and Guitars. I can’t remember if I ever met his mom. He would always want to wrestle me since my Roommate with Jason Krikorian who’s dad owed the local movie theatre chain. Jason was a Jiu Jitsu instructor at the Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy in Torrance and they were just launching the UFC from that school. Mark was having a hard time wondering how scrawny kids could submit larger opponents. It is stunning to think that Quentin Tarrantino was tied into people I knew personally and that he started as a mere video clerk in Manhattan Beach. Let alone that the UFC was started by people I know. Such a small world, and we all come from humble beginnings.

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