Reel Gone: Berkeley's Reel Video to Close

Danger Diabolik.jpg
Reel Video, where you could obtain this movie or 99,999 others, is kaput
Reel Video, the beloved, warehouse-sized Berkeley store where customers could always count on great popcorn -- and terrible movies being played by the staff -- is on its last reel.

Employees at the 13-year-old store were recently told the store is closing and will be gone in a matter of weeks or months, SF Weekly has learned. While Reel looks for all the world like an esoteric, independent store of the sort Bay Area customers love to patronize -- and feel good about patronizing -- it was actually bought by Hollywood Video in 1998. "They let us do whatever we wanted. We were kind of forgotten about," said longtime clerk Andrew Purcell.

Hollywood isn't forgetting about Reel now, though. The chain filed for bankruptcy protection in February and is going under. All of its stores -- including 16 in Northern California -- are following suit. Purcell notes that Reel was actually around $80,000 in the black last year -- the only Hollywood store in the district to make money -- but is closing nonetheless.

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It appears Reel's vast collection of more than 100,000 individual titles will be cast to the wind. There was some talk of a rival chain buying up the Berkeley store -- but now it appears more likely the competitor will simply buy up swaths of Reel's video cassettes and DVDs.

Purcell, meanwhile, was consoling himself when SF Weekly called by playing episodes of the original Star Trek for the store's a.m. customers. He confirmed our suspicions about the films the staff broadcasts on the in-store monitors by noting  "I like to put on the worst movie I can find. And we have a competition of who can find the worst movie to watch."

We never thought we'd miss waiting in line with our chosen rentals and watching clips of epic stinkers like Beastmaster or Danger: Diabolik (a ridiculous Italian caper in which diamonds are at one point fired from a gun as a deadly weapon). We do already.
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