Vulcan Video Gives Back to the Community with Taps and Tapes
The local movie rental store is preserving our shared VHS (and DVD and Blu-ray) heritage
By Sam Russek, Fri., Aug. 9, 2019
Vulcan Video is a gateway to "Old Austin," that nostalgic big-city-small-town capital captured in Richard Linklater's early films. Originally opened in the 1980s, the video rental store harkens back to the days before Netflix, when you entered looking for one tape or DVD and left with an armful of staff recommendations. It's shifted locations, expanded, and multiplied: But even with the ever-rising cost of operating in Austin and the supposed death of physical media, there's still one Vulcan left with the lights on, and with a GoFundMe to help keep it that way.
General Manager Jacob Q. Knight said he never thought a GoFundMe would work, but people had already donated close to $3,000 when he woke up the morning after it went live, and the money and support keep coming in. Vulcan has raised more than $30,000 as of the end of July, still shy of their $35,000 goal. "I was just thinking we couldn't close or default on the lease, because then all the stuff [in the store] that's not ours is the bank's, and they would just sell it off until they got their money back."
To show its thanks to the community and attract new customers, Vulcan has launched Taps and Tapes, projecting VHS gems every Saturday with free beer (provided so far by an assortment of local breweries and distributors, including Austin Beerworks, Karbach Brewing, Thirsty Planet, and Party Barn). The series has screened a variety of genres, from 1980s New York crime dramas to a rare Charles Manson documentary. Knight said the films chosen each week aren't available through a streaming service, and that's by design. "It's a variety of stuff that's really rare and we want people to see.
"Video stores in general have always been beyond a place to just find movies. They're community hubs," Knight said. "We kind of owe [the community] at this point not only the effort to stay open but the effort to grow and continue to stay open, and that's what we're trying to do."
Movies are why Knight moved to Austin. He was attending Fantastic Fest in 2012 when he decided to rent an apartment here, even though he didn't have a job, and Vulcan Video was one of the first places where he turned in an application. It was a way to be closer to the film community, as Vulcan was (and still is) a place for filmmakers, film critics, and film lovers alike. "It's just a stronghold," he said. "A friend told me once that you go to New York and you go to L.A. to make movies, but you go to Austin to watch them. That's one of the things we're preserving: a place where these kinds of minds can come together and at least have a job, and a place to incubate and come up with their next thing."
Although Austin is changing, Knight said he hopes the store can continue to be what it is. "[Vulcan is] going to evolve with the times to stay open, but in [our] guiding mindset, it'll always be a weird little haven for people who love cinema."
Vulcan Video, 4411 Russell Dr. Contribute to the Vulcan Video fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/help-save-vulcan-video. For more on the history of Vulcan Video, read “Vulcan Video Hammers Southward,” July 13, 2016.
Taps and Tapes
Aug. 10: Kill Squad (1982)
Aug. 17: Out of the Dark (1988)
Aug. 24: Black Lizard (1968)
Aug. 31: The Love God? on 16 mm (1969)
Screenings begin at dusk.