I got some sad news today at lunch when a friend of mine handed me a copy of the L.A. Times obituary section, which listed the passing of 90-year-old Eddie Brandt. Brandt was the owner and founder of Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, a movie rental store that has become a second home to legions of film geeks like me.
As a tribute to Eddie, today I am reposting an article I wrote about his store in July, 2010.
THE WORLD’s GREATEST VIDEO STORE
It may not look like much from the outside, but the first time I stepped through the doors of Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee in North Hollywood, I knew I had discovered the movie rental mother lode.
Lots of film buffs feel the same way, including Hollywood insiders like Leonard Maltin and Quentin Tarantino, who I’ve personally seen browsing among the 87,000 VHS tapes, 18,000 DVDs, and 22 tons of pictures and movie posters that can be found at 5006 Vineland Avenue.
Since 1969, Eddie Brandt’s has been renting films and television shows on beta, VHS, laserdisc, DVD, and now Blu-ray. There are thousands of larger, flashier places to rent films, but there is only one Eddie Brandt’s. Some say it’s the world’s first video store, and hosts of Eddie Brandt’s fans, like me, also believe it’s the world’s best.
Eddie Brandt was a comedian and song writer for Spike Jones and Spade Cooley for many years before becoming a writer for animated shows at Hanna-Barbera. It was there that he met his wife Claire, who was an inker. They married in the late 60s, and after cartoon work became scarce, they started a new business selling film stills they acquired from garage sales and swap meets. The fledgling enterprise got a major boost when Eddie bought a truckload of images from Columbia Pictures for a song, that would otherwise have ended up in the city dump.
Home video was introduced at the time, and the Brandts began their film rental business with a half-dozen B-Westerns. This was at a time when films cost $50 each on betamax, and a decent player would set you back about $2500.
Eddie Brandt’s is still a family operation. Eddie, who is nearing 90, has retired, but Claire still manages photo sales. Their son Donovan–a walking film encyclopedia–heads up movie rentals.
I stop in from time to time to locate rare silent comedies and B-Westerns that I know I won’t find at Blockbuster. I like listening in on conversations about discoveries other customers have made in the store, like the guy who once rented an ancient documentary about Coney Island and saw his parents on the film as youngsters!
Over the past couple of decades, I’ve only heard “we don’t have it” a handful of times. At Eddie Brandt’s they like to say, “If we don’t have it, you probably can’t get it.”
(One last thing … Back when Claire worked at Hanna-Barbera, she would often bring her baby daughter in to work with her. Her daughter wore a pony tail on the top of her head. At the same time, the artists were creating a new child character for a hit show. When Pebbles Flintstone debuted, she had a similar pony tail and bore a striking resemblance to Claire’s daughter … Coincidence? We don’t think so.)
To view Eddie’s L.A. Times obituary, click here.