by Jean-Bernard Hyppolite
Walking into the Video Library, 7141 Germantown Ave., one immediately notices that it’s not the typical movie rental store. There’s an ice cream stand to the left of the entrance by the name of Scoop that features Philadelphia’s own Bassetts Ice Cream. To the right there are a few sets of cozy chairs and table stands. In the back left there’s a movie theater, called The Little Theater, which seats 25 people. In the middle lie hundreds and hundreds of classic and modern movies. Betty Ann Fellner, 72, co-owner, has a plate full of ambitious ideas for an already ambitious store.
Mt. Airy has been The Video Library’s home for the better part of four years. In that time, it has sought to offer a communal vibe that complements the main commercial strip of Mt. Airy. However, despite its extra amenities, the place isn’t called The Video Library for nothing. “We have a vast collection of classic movies as well as contemporary. A lot of people don’t know,” said Betty Ann about her immense inventory.
In today’s world of On-Demand, Netflix and other forms of home entertainment, it’s useful to know there is still a movie rental store in the area that can cater to people on an individual basis. People don’t need to have a membership at The Video Library in order to rent movies. If the movie is overdue, a letter will go out to the culprit, explaining that he/she is being charged for lateness.
“That’s the only way where we could have a little bit of hope that we’ll get mostly everything back,” said Betty Ann. “It’s not foolproof, but if someone comes in and says ‘I know I returned it,’ which has happened, there are times when we’ll assume he’s right. Once somebody who had insisted he had returned the movie came in and said, ‘I’m so embarrassed, I just found it.’”
A movie rental at The Video Library can cost as little as $2. On weekends a two-night rental is only $3.50, and even that can be cheaper during the week! The Video Library looks to offer a sense of community, and with that comes trust in its customers. Betty mentioned that last year a woman rented out The Video Library’s Little Theater only to have the process be interrupted due to the two huge snow storms that occurred within two weeks of each other. The woman recently came back to hold an event for her daughter, and she showed Betty Ann that she had already paid a year beforehand (for the event that was snowed out). As a result, she didn’t have to pay at all for the current event.
Though the Video Library has been around for four years, in Betty Ann’s opinion there’s still a lot to be done in terms of further establishing its presence in Mt. Airy. “Mt. Airy itself is huge. There are a lot of people who don’t know what we have to offer.” Betty Ann’s husband, David, built the Little Theater and Scoop in an effort to provide that “extra special something” to lure people away from the cozy confines of Netflix, On-Demand, etc.
Up until last June The Video Library played movies in The Little Theater. Nowadays parties rent out the 25-seat theater to provide a particular screening or presentation; food is welcome. In addition, local movie critic Adam Lippe, who was recently profiled in Local Life, has begun screening rare movies from time to time at The Little Theater.
“Ultimately we would like people to rent the space for their friends or for their organizations. Sometimes there’s a movie coming out that really pinpoints whatever issue they’re dealing with. If a group of 15 come in and they pay $5 each, well there’s your rental.”
Betty Ann would also like to have upcoming filmmakers use the theater to showcase their films to potential backers. It costs $75 to rent out The Little Theater for 2 ½ hours. Every half hour after that, it goes up 15 dollars. “Whoever likes things that have an artistic quality, whether the movies are known or not known, whether they’re contemporary or classic, whether they’re foreign or American, it doesn’t matter,” she said.
Betty Ann Fellner was born in Baltimore; she majored in history at Goucher College, earned her Masters in history at Penn and has three children with her husband. The Fellners, who also own other properties on the 7100 block of Germantown Avenue, have resided in Mt. Airy for 34 years.
Betty Ann and those involved with the Video Library are looking to improve their website tenfold by spring. Until then they can be contacted at 215-247-3020.