New Life for Naro Video at ODU

Naro Video Collection grand opening

Beloved Norfolk video store’s massive and historic collection of films on DVD, Blu-ray and VHS now available to the public at Old Dominion University’s Perry Library

By Justice Menzel

In 2019, confronted with the rise of streaming services and a dwindling consumer base, Norfolk’s last great video store, Naro Expanded Video, permanently closed. 

But thanks to the generosity of its owners and a community that recognized its cultural significance, its massive collection of films is now available to the public through Naro Video @ ODU Libraries.

Originally opened in 1989, Naro Expanded Video was a Ghent landmark. Purchased in 1996 by Tim Cooper and Linda McGreevy, the store served as an artistic beacon for generations of film buffs in the Coastal Virginia community. When it closed, Cooper and McGreevy were faced with a difficult question: What would happen to their store’s 42,000 titles? 

After brushing off the possibility of liquidation, a newly developed Naro Advisory Board decided that the collection must remain intact and should be made available to the public. They eventually resolved to donate the titles to Old Dominion University, where McGreevy served for many years as a professor of art history.

In the spring of 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, several truckloads of Blu-rays, DVDs and VHS tapes made their way from the store’s location on Colley Avenue to ODU’s Perry Library. Over the next three years, they underwent a laborious cataloging process.

BE KIND, REWIND The opening to the public of the Naro Video Collection’s more than 42,000 titles was celebrated by a Red Carpet Gala in March at ODU’s Perry Library. The Naro’s long-time owners, Tim Cooper and Linda McGreevy (pictured, center in ribbon cutting photo), donated the collection and were on hand to celebrate the occasion.

The official opening of the Naro Video collection at ODU was celebrated with a red-carpet gala on March 2, 2024. Invitees got a look inside the cavernous room on the library’s first floor, previously home to military and government documents, which now boasts aisles of shelves populated by thousands of movies sorted alphabetically by genre. 

On the far-left wall, rows of international films are organized by country of origin and include, among many others, Iranian, African and Italian titles. According to Tim Hackman, Dean of Libraries for ODU, the Naro Video collection is among the three largest film collections on the East Coast.

And the collection is growing, with funds set aside for new additions and plans in the works for a possible endowment to maintain and expand the collection. These will include classic rereleases, blockbusters and independent films, as well as items to bridge the gap between Naro Video’s closure and the Naro Video Collection opening at ODU. New acquisitions can be discovered in the section labeled “New to Naro.”

“To a lot of people, this has felt like the return of something that had been missing from their lives for six years,” says Kris King, the Perry Library’s Naro Video Curator. King, who began assisting with the project in 2022, was a long-time patron of the store before its closure. He hopes that the collection will allow students and patrons to expand their knowledge of “cinema without guardrails” as it did for him.

““Everything feels like it’s been touched and handled by people,” King says. “There’s no algorithm. The more you look and the deeper in the water that you get, you’re more likely to find something that’s either shocking or that you’ve never seen before. You’re not going to get that on streaming services; they don’t want to challenge you. They don’t want you to cancel your subscription. Here you can grab something, and it’s a challenge.” 

The Naro Collection includes at least 15,000 more titles than every streaming service combined, according to King and Hackman. Many of these are highlighted in the “Unstreamable” category. Think films like John Waters’ Pink Flamingos, Kevin Smith’s Dogma or Tinto Brass’ Caligula.

In addition to films divided into traditional genres from horror and action to westerns and musicals, there are documentaries, indie, foreign and low-budget movies as well as those made by and for underrepresented groups like LGBTQ+. 

Still, the collection caters to a wide demographic, and is designed to be accessible. Hollywood blockbusters, animated children’s films and Oscar-winning dramas can be found in the space, and DVD and Blu-Ray players are available for checkout alongside the collection.

Since 2022, King has curated free screenings of classic films at the historic Naro Theater and the ODU Planetarium. Currently in development is a mini-theater in Perry Library’s Naro wing, which could serve as the future location for the Monarch Short Film Festival. 

“We could put 30 to 40 seats in here and have a little showing, and faculty could come and speak. It would be an intimate space with all these movies on either side,” says Hackman. Hackman and others envision a variety of creative public programming tied to the collection in the future.

The Naro Video Collection is available for check-out at no cost to current students, faculty and staff at ODU. The general public can access the collection through a Friends of the Library membership at an annual fee of $50 for individuals or $100 for families. Memberships can be purchased in person by visiting the library help desk. An ID and proof of residency are required.

Justice Menzel

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