Saturday, May 3, 2008

Black Lodge

Black Lodge is a video store in Memphis T.N. The most blood drenched slasher flicks to the most obscure foreign films have found a home at The Black Lodge Video in Memphis. "I have a love of film," said Bryan Hogue, co-owner of Black Lodge with his partner Matt Martin. "I consider myself a film archivist in a way. This is a film library." They met when they were both grocery baggers at Seesel's, according to Hogue. "Horror was our main thing when we were growing up," Hogue said. "It's kind of how we got to know each other." Black Lodge opened its doors in October of 2000 with about 6,000 videos, according to Hogue. "We wanted our hobby to pay for itself," Hogue said. "We knew that we could do it well." Black Lodge has grown significantly over the past few years. Now they have a collection of over 10,000 videos and 4,200 DVDs. "We had a big collection, and we started building on it," Martin said. "Then we said, 'let's just open the doors and see what happens.' At first. we didn't know if we would survive or not, then it just blew up." The inspiration for Black Lodge came from the duo working at similar video stores in Colombia, Mo., where they attended college. They realized that there was not a video store like theirs in the area."It made sense to put up some boards on the wall and see if anyone was interested," Martin said. "The heart of it is that I love people to be able to get access to films. I like to think that people find a place for themselves here, some way for people to make their lives more enjoyable." The name for the store came from Twin Peaks, a TV show created by David Lynch."In the show, there were two spiritual places, the black lodge and the white lodge," Hogue said. "The black lodge was where all the evil spirits were." There has been a certain amount of mythology that has shrouded the store in mystery to outsiders, according to Martin. "I think it's the tattoos," Martin said. "People need something to believe in even if it's creepy and weird."Martin and Hogue, along with many other people over the years, have gotten tattoos of the Black Lodge owl on various parts of their bodies. "Almost every single part of the human anatomy has been tattooed with the Black Lodge owl," Martin said. "For years we've had people come in here thinking that we do all kinds of things.People have thought that they were in a secret society, a cult and that they killed people for not returning movies, according to Martin. Martin and Hogue are the only people who work at Black Lodge for money. The rest of the people are more like an extended family of volunteers, according to Hogue. "We've had a lot of friends come in. They pretty much work for rentals and hang out space," Hogue said. "We prefer that to hiring strangers off of the street. If you have your friends working with you, it's more pleasant than strangers." Working with friends and fostering a family atmosphere does have its down side, according to Martin. "It's more like a Manson family atmosphere," Martin said. "There is constantly in-fighting, but for the most part, it feels like home." The love of film and of Black Lodge has infected more than just its owners though. "This is the most awesome collection I've seen in my life," said Bernard "BJ" Rule, who has been volunteering at the store since 2000. "I take a lot of pride in being here." The volunteers help in all aspects of the store and do a lot to keep everything running smoothly, according to Martin. "It's a great place to watch great movies," said Mike Degnan, who has been involved with Black Lodge since 2001. "It's one of the most innovative and unique businesses in the region that works." Black Lodge also provides a venue for people who are tired of dealing with major video rental chains, according to Degnan. "What are you waiting for? Blockbuster is a joke, and Hollywood video isn't much better," Degnan said. "You've got no excuse not to come here unless you're looking for kids' movies." Black Lodge's vast collection is a great place to get a self-education in film history, according to Degnan. Area film professors also use the store to help educate their students. "Just about every film class, no matter what school, comes to us. The teachers have found us, and they know that we've got what they need," Hogue said. "If someone assigns a paper that movie is always out by the end of the day." Aside from being an archive of sorts and serving the community's film students, Black Lodge has to compete with larger chain video stores and the Internet. "It all has to do with the future of the film industry itself. We'll probably always stick around as a type of vintage shop," Martin said. "The high times for all of this is now, but we'll always have a place to hang out and do our thing." The Black Lodge emerged at an exciting time in Memphis film when Craig Brewer and John Michael McCarthy were first making a name for themselves in the film industry, according to Martin. Black Lodge was even given exclusive rights to Brewer's first film, "The Poor and the Hungry." "There are still things that have gone under our radar. We're still constantly learning ourselves," Hogue said. Speaking for myself, this is the biggest treasure trove I've ever come across. As a lover of old cult films, I nearly fainted when I entered this store for the first time. I've lived in some pretty diverse cities and never in a million years, thought I would come across Heaven on Earth, here in Tennessee. This isn't just any old video store, it's a well stocked cinematic library of global proportions.

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