WICKER PARK — At a time when most video stores, big and small, have shuttered throughout the country, Wicker Park’s Odd Obsession has managed to keep its operation — and its collection of more than 25,000 films — afloat for more than a decade.
This month, however, the shop at 1830 N. Milwaukee Ave. is on the brink of closure, and the volunteers who help run it are trying to save it.
In a crowdfunding campaign dubbed “Keep Odd Obsession Movies Alive,” staffers are trying to raise $25,000 to keep the thousands of rare and obscure films they carry accessible to all.
Donors can snag rewards ranging from membership to the shop (free rentals for a month — or a year — depending on the donation) and hand-drawn doodles from the shop’s creative volunteers.
As of Sunday evening, the fundraiser has raised a little more than $8,000.
If Odd Obsession doesn’t meet its fundraising goal, there’s a good chance the store will be forced to sell its collection and close permanently, volunteer Lee Kepraois said Friday.
Kepraois said the closure would mean more to the community than access to movies — it would also mean losing a network of film-obsessed volunteers who have helped locals discover new art since 2006.
While Netflix and Amazon rely on algorithms for recommendations, the curation and human touch found at Odd Obsession can’t be replicated.
“It’s much richer to find something when someone’s describing it, so you’re not wasting your time. There’s a lot of history to navigate,” he said. “What kind of relationship do you want to have with your media, with your entertainment?”
Since 2006, the shop’s collection of movies has grown from 4,000 titles to more than 25,000.
In 2012, shop owner Brian Chankin told DNAinfo Odd Obsession survived thanks in large part to loyal neighbors.
“We keep our expenses low and are lucky that we have customers with discriminating tastes who come in regularly,” he said.
In recent years, however, a lot of those loyal patrons have vanished as rents went up and streaming platforms became more popular, Kepraois said.
Meanwhile, costs — rent, licensing fees, etc. — have risen. Still, Kepraois said there is value in the human touch Odd Obsession can provide movie fans.
“You go to a farmer’s market, you pay for honey made on someone’s roof,” he said. “This, to me, is the equivalent of that. It applies to entertainment.”
Chankin could not be reached for comment, but the fundraising page states that he’s “pursuing other creative ventures.”
Films at Odd Obsession are categorized by director, country and genre, and volunteers have a wealth of knowledge about them.
Despite the financial challenges, Kepraois said he has been overwhelmed by the neighborhood’s “generous” support for the store.
“The community has been really fantastic,” he said. “More people know about us than I thought.”
Aside from the Indiegogo campaign, the shop is holding two fundraisers. On Friday at 6 p.m., Odd Obsession will show screenings and sell raffle tickets during an event at Kip Studios, 1902 N. Milwaukee Ave.
And on Nov. 19, the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., will host a fundraising event. To donate to Odd Obsession, click here.
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