Everybody knows video stores are under attack on multiple fronts, including streaming video on the web and Netflix DVDs by mail, so it shouldn't shock anyone that a single neighborhood can't support so many old-fashioned, brick-and-mortar rental spots. But it doesn't seem accidental that Video Forum was the first to go—in fact, it testifies to the shifting demographics, the decline, of Park Slope.
Christine Kim, who owns Get Reel, near Video Forum on Fifth Avenue and St. Marks, told us recently she worried that the neighborhood was changing, exchanging the kinds of artists who double as film lovers (and, say, would use the store's dedicated Criterion section) for the tasteless rich, who are content to rent the latest blockbusters from their cable provider's pay-per-view service.
This can only be compounded by the Atlantic Yards project, whose mall-complementing arena will transform the north end of Park Slope: already, an old Irish dive is remaking itself into a rock n' roll sports bar. Festering anxieties over this transformation also inform, in part, the protests against a proposed nightclub on Flatbush and Sixth avenues, Prime 6, who some residents worried would attract an undesirable element.
North Slope is not artsy, or even well-off; increasingly, it's becoming luxurious, and small businesses are finding it harder to stay there. Video Forum's closing is not only part of a larger video-store trend, but a Seventh Avenue one, as well. "There are more than 15 empty storefronts on the avenue at the moment, an alarming statistic for Slopers who form a close attachment to their local stores and the people who work there," Louise Crawford wrote on the Park Slope Patch earlier this week. "Many fear that the only businesses that can stay in business are cell phone stores, real estate firms and national chains."
The first of the video stores to die was on the north end of Seventh Avenue because the kinds of customers who keep these places in business—people who want to shop locally, people who like movies—are increasingly disappearing from that quarter of the community. The young people, the politically conscious, the sorts who don't sue the city over bike lanes, have been pushed out, relocating to the South Slope, where both Video Gallery and Reel Life South remain in business. For now.