A fourth act for Cinema Revolution on Lyndale

For John Koch, there’s no better way to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his Cinema Revolution video store than to simply throw open his new set of doors and welcome the customers who made the act possible.

Earlier this year, Koch’s small store was languishing in its location — its fourth in Southwest since Koch launched the store in 2003, owing to landlord struggles and other issues — near Nicollet Avenue & 26th Street. Slow street traffic, stagnant membership, slipping profits.

Not to say Koch was ready to call it quits. “My attitude toward this place is I won’t stop until I’m forced to stop,” he said. “Someone else is going to have to close it for me.”

But he was stuck.

Then this summer he found a new location, at 2431 Lyndale Ave. S., planted squarely in a stretch of businesses frequented by what he sees as his core demographic. Only problem was, he couldn’t come up with enough money for the move.

In August he turned to his 7,000 members and asked for $5,000. He told them anything would help. He gave them one month.

They delivered in two weeks.

Donations ranged from $5 to one anonymous gift of $1,000, and an $1,800 matching grant from the local film company Take-Up Productions.

Late last month, Koch opened his new doors.

He’s planning a formal anniversary celebration Dec. 12–13 at Intermedia Arts, where he’ll screen a series of Cinema Revolution-commissioned films featuring collaborations between local filmmakers and dancers. He also plans to relaunch the store’s regular discussion series.

Street traffic is rising, memberships are up, and Koch is beginning to believe that for Cinema Revolution, the fourth location is the charm.

“There’s a good convergence of things here,” he said. “It feels like it’s a puzzle piece, fitting in just right.”

Video-store owner by day, filmmaker by night

When John Koch isn’t busy working the register at Cinema Revolution, he’s building a reputation as an emerging filmmaker.

Koch is a Minneapolis College of Art and Design graduate whose love for movies was born from a love of making them.

Earlier this year, his first feature film, “Je Ne Sais Quoi”, a dialogue-driven dark comedy about relationships, was screened locally. He’s currently shopping it to film festivals.And by the time you read this, Koch will likely have finished his nine days of scheduled production on his next film, “The Seducer,” a mashup of a Dostoevsky short story, “White Knights,” and one of Koch’s original screenplays.

Koch works purposely on a bare-bones budget with a minimal crew. He made “Je Ne Sais Quoi” for around $5,000 and partially financed it by selling his car. So far, his production costs for “The Seducer” are in the high two figures — the cost of film. The actors are locals he’s met through his store or by attending plays, and the crew is just him and two others.

He said he expects to finish “The Seducer” sometime in mid-2009. He said his low-key approach allows him to tinker with the film until he’s satisfied.

“It’ll go through a lot of different incarnations,” he said. “I’ll reinterpret it, shoot more scenes. You can work more like a regular artist, work and rework, undo, pull things out and add new things. You have an eraser.”

In many ways, it’s the same approach he brings to running Cinema Revolution, the one that’s allowed him, through improvisation and perseverance, to keep his doors open.