VideOdyssey Studios owner Andy Johnson mounts his VHS stack and tells us what makes a collector…

Posted on 25 July 2021
By Andy Johnson
  • Share:

“I collect spools, mold and fungus…”

At some point the gravity of an ever expanding collection takes on unnatural weight and there’s an event horizon, where the collector is in danger of being engulfed in the collection.

That’s the fear in feverish dreams where future archaeologists find my bones amongst a pile of VHS. “What’s this inside this double box set of Cold Feet Gerald?”

“Sounds strange Humphrey, but I think that’s a human collarbone. You know there were stories of a weird man who kept thousands of tapes here, before the apocalypse.”

Thankfully, our VHS film collection is available for film fans to either rent and take home or watch here with us, so it feels like it belongs to them.

I don’t remember the single moment that made me appreciate analogue treasures. Maybe it was slipping Ghostbusters in for the third time on Sunday morning after bringing it home from the video shop.

This mysterious little box, which you clunked into a pop up slot, on top of a bigger box, which wound the glistening black spool around a magnetic strip, to play pictures on your TV. When it ends, you can rewind and start again, or swap for another story. Sorcery!

Or perhaps it started being around my dad’s old Mercury Press Agency office in the late 80s. There’s a memory of a monolith of newsprint in the back room, where they stored 6 months worth of papers, so they could claim payment for published work.

There were white billowing curtains, yellowed by years of frantic cigarette smoking, which danced above the horde of black, white and red paper stacks. I used to spend hours exploring their pages while the reverberating voices in the newsroom next door punctuated the air with urgency of vital information.

There was the mysterious chemical smell of The Dark Room. A magic chamber, where pictures were brought to life. You could only enter, when the red light above the door was dimmed, on strict pain of death.

It was intoxicating to be surrounded by the demands of deadlines and the crush of creative collaboration. The pen is mightier than the sword. The sense that knowledge is power, in its purest form. Sold, sent and curated by unseen powers in Ivory Towers at the other end of the country.

This was a bygone era, where words were literally thrown, via typewriters across the room for poor performance. Pictures were sent via a wire on a giant machine, or if needed in a hurry, rushed by a man on a motorbike to Manchester.

Since the age of 8, I’ve had an obsession with collecting physical media. Beano and Dandy comics. Action figures. Records. Magazines. I’ve hoarded them all.
But nothing like this. As I stare at teetering towers of tapes that need sorting, ready for a reunion with an audience.

People mock the quality of VHS, but it seems they’ve forgotten the healing power of nostalgia. Similar to vinyl, cast aside for cracks and pops, then rediscovered for that warm, fuzzy feeling.

Old video shop tapes are the first edition of your favourite films and they deserve to be preserved. The perfect marriage of words and pictures.

I never imagined we would amass so many films. A further 20,000 tapes loom large on the horizon. A man in Dundee wants us to save them from oblivion. What do you say? It’s the ability of being able to share them with people which keeps me going. Saving a story from someone’s attic to become loved once more.

When we opened, it all began with my original collection of around 400 videos. When things get tight and tense… It’s just time to be reminded we’re on a mission to save film.

Incredibly Time Out Magazine has just listed your humble video shop on their worldwide bucket list of 101 places film fans should visit. Alongside the major movie studios of LA, the Hobbiton set in New Zealand and the Ghostbusters Firehouse in New York.

This is in large part thanks to the movie buffs who’ve visited VideOdyssey, the audiences for the shows at the studio, anyone who helped spread the word and all the people we’ve worked with. Thank you!

Fancy reading the list? Time Out’s film fans’ must visit bucket list. We’re at number 62, just after Sony Pictures lot in LA and a picture of Ecto 1.

Have you stood in front of our 8 foot tall wall of videotapes? It is a little bit of time travel right here. We are among the top rated Airbnb experiences in Liverpool and ready to receive visitors. So be a tourist in your own town and come see us soon.