Video Renaissance, Cinephile Landmark, Closes



Through the VHS era and beyond, the locale for cinephiles in Sarasota was Video Renaissance. But in a world of streaming video on demand, the independent video store closed down for good this weekend.

Employees at the Bee Ridge Road store confirmed that Saturday would be the last day of business for the store. No decision has been announced as to what will happen with the more than 35,000 titles of films there, which included a catalog of art house cinema, silent films and independent gems difficult to find even with a host of streaming services available online.

Mark Famiglio, chairman of the Sarasota Film Festival, says the small store in many ways provided a foundation for decades to a cinephile community in Sarasota. “It was an experience to go into Video Renaissance, and one sorely our current generation will never enjoy,” he says. “It’s changed many people’s lives beyond the four corners of its small strip center.”

Famiglio himself recalled going to the store to seek out films he’d heard of but couldn’t find on screen or in other locales. If staff there couldn’t find the video, they’d call around. Or they’d recommend another movie altogether that might satiate the same creative appetites.

Store co-founder Terry Porter held a legendary reputation for years for his taste and knowledge of all things film. After his 2010 death, the Sarasota Film Festival began giving an award annually in his name, a tradition still going on today. “The word cinephile doesn’t begin to describe the guy,” Famiglio says.

The store operated for 33 years, opening first as Cult Video in 1985 and then later changing its name. Over the next 33 years, Sarasota cinephiles saw the opening of Burns Court Cinema in 1993, then the Sarasota Film Festival launched in 1999.

Video Renaissance's Bill Wooldridge confirmed on social media the store could not continue in today’s distribution environment. The shop outlasted Blockbuster and other chains that once dominated the rental scene before being replaced by RedBox for the buyer who still wants to touch a DVD and by Netflix, Amazon and other services for those ready to stream video over the internet.

Neither of those options offers the library of titles that until this weekend lined the shelves at Video Renaissance.

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