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What This County Needs: Art With...

Sure, Orange County has a video rental shop on every corner, each stocking umpteen copies of the latest hit, be it “The Lost Boys” or “Working Girl,” “Rain Man” or “Batman.”

But how about a place for videophiles looking for alternative, classic or foreign films? A place that takes in everything from such early masterpieces as “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to cult films from schlockmeister Russ Meyer. A documentary on expatriate American writer Paul Bowles, perhaps, or one on blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins?

To date, local video retailers have chosen to duke it out over the market for hit movies and exercise tapes, leaving the adventurous to pick through a perfunctory selection of older titles or foreign flicks. It’s a hit-or-miss proposition--mostly miss--for video shoppers in the mood for Rita Hayworth in “Gilda,” for instance.

So how about a place that leaves the hits to the copycat chain stores and mom-and-pop outlets, while staking out a niche for itself as the place to go in the county for Vittorio de Sica’s “Bicycle Thief” or Andy Warhol’s “Dracula”?

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It can work--just ask the folks at Vidiots in Santa Monica.

Opened in 1987, the combination coffeehouse and video rental shop has made a name for itself as a place to both rent and discuss the works of Jean-Luc Goddard. There are racks and racks of foreign and vintage titles, cult films and documentaries. Instead of filling out the horror shelves with cookie-cutter sequels, from “Halloween” to “Friday the 13th,” there are such obscurities as “I Walked With a Zombie”; the obligatory adult section mixes up the usual formula and offers a few titles for gay audiences.

The need for such an outlet would seem all the greater in Orange County, where out-of-the-mainstream films play for a couple of weeks at the Port or Balboa, if at all. Maybe there’s not enough of a demand for every video shop to carry a large selection of offbeat titles, but surely there’s room for one place that caters to adventurous film fans.

Isn’t there?

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