Nine-year-old Caine Monroy is totally nonplussed by the attention his homemade cardboard arcade received this week after the short film “Caine’s Arcade” went viral on the Internet.
The documentary was directed by Nirvan Mullick, an L.A. filmmaker who happened upon Caine’s cardboard arcade when he tried to buy a car handle for his ’96 Corolla from Caine’s dad’s auto parts shop.
The heartwarming 11-minute film got a combined 3.5 million views on Vimeo and YouTube in just four days. That led to hundreds of online articles about the video, which led to television stories about the cardboard arcade by Fox, NBC and CNN.
A scholarship fund for Caine, set up by Mullick, got $140,000 in online donations from people moved by the film, and TMZ reported that Caine made such an impression on the owner of the pinball machine store Pins and Needles that she gave him a pinball machine worth thousands of dollars for free.
But by Friday, the whirlwind had started to die down. No television crews were lined up outside Caine’s dad’s auto parts shop in Boyle Heights, where Caine built the arcade last summer. It was the first time that had happened in days.
Still, Caine, dressed in his custom-made Caine’s Arcade sweatshirt, wasn’t feeling blue now that his 15 minutes had started to fade. After all, fame was never the point. Caine is interested in customers.
Caine’s dad, George, said Caine has always had a knack for spotting money making opportunities — buying trendy rubber bracelets for 99 cents on eBay and selling them for $5 at swap meets, or turning an old skateboard and a cardboard box into a roaming vending machine where he sold Kit Kats, bottled water and potato chips for a dollar.
Despite the rain and the cold, and the fact that there is no heat in the front of his dad’s store, Caine had seven paying customers at his arcade at 3 on a Friday afternoon, including a father and daughter who heard about the arcade via Facebook, an artist who lives in the neighborhood who heard Brian Williams talking about it on NBC and two college students who found the video on Tumblr.
Caine was running two games at a time — audibly counting off the 20 seconds he gives players to play each game, calculator in hand to keep track of how many turns one player had left on his 500-turn fun pass.
Devon Gomez, a 20-year-old college student who was battling the homemade claw machine, asked how many tickets he’d need to win a box of four Angry Birds stuffed animals sitting on the counter.
“Don’t even think about it,” said Caine. “20,000 tickets. You’d need 5,000 tickets for just one.”
“You have to watch your wallet with this kid,” Gomez said.
Caine just grinned and asked if he wanted another turn.