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Video Cafe: It's more than a store

At the Video Cafe in southwest Medford, you don't just rent a movie.

Chances are you may find yourself discussing the film's story and cinematic technique with the store's owners. And you might do that over an espresso, or while munching on some nachos.

With video stores almost as plentiful as gas stations these days, it may be unusual to find one that's really different.

But the Video Cafe, which opened at 707 Stewart Ave. last April, does walk to a different drummer. It specializes in hard-to-find, obscure, foreign, art and cult films. It's also an espresso bar with a limited sandwich and snack menu. And it offers access to the Internet.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the business is who owns it.

Meet Bill Yocum of Ashland and Mike Mitchell of Central Point. Yocum is 21, Mitchell is 23. They are not much older than some of their customers, since the store draws patrons from nearby South Medford High School.

Yocum believes he and Mitchell can be a positive influence with younger people, because we are young. They see us doing what we are doing and realize they can make a difference.

But the two entrepreneurs also like to interact with people of all ages. Older folks come in to look over the racks of classic films.

We've had people come in here and discuss movies we've never even heard of, says Yocum.

Both look upon their business as a learning experience in movie lore and in running a business.

Yocum, who studied business at Southern Oregon University, says he's more into the business side of it, while Mitchell is more the movie buff.

Both are big on film research and discussion. They routinely screen several movies a day _ and on into the night _ on a big-screen TV in the store.

Walk around and peruse the shelves and you notice:

Mixed in with current releases like Men in Black and Soul Food are titles like Tromeo and Juliet (a parody on Shakespeare) and Touch, the latter with Bridget Fonda.

One section on the shelf has Bill's picks, another Mike's picks. They are changed periodically.

The other day, Bill's included Hard Boiled, Animal Farm, Mute Witness, Bullet Proof Heart, Shopping and Dellamorte Dellamore.

Mike's picks included Being There, the 1984 version of The Thing, This Is Spinal Tap, House of Games, Naked Lunch and Miller's Crossing.

In the cult section are titles like The Toy Box, Mondo Mod, and Russ Meyer's Vixen and Mudhoney.

When different versions of the same film exist, they try to stock both.

For example, they have two versions of Army of Darkness, the original with an unhappy ending and the later one with a different ending, changed because the studio thought the original one was too negative.

Look for remakes and their earlier counterparts, like the 1992 version of Last of the Mohicans with Daniel Day-Lewis and also the 1977 version with Steve Forrest. And you find the 1976 version of A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand and the 1954 version with Judy Garland.

Sometimes Hollywood remakes a foreign film. The Video Cafe has The Birdcage from 1996 and La Cage Aux Folles, the 1979 French film on which it was based.

They also have a kids' section, with recent things like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and older films like a 1972 version of Tom Sawyer.

Foreign titles include The Tin Drum, a controversial 1979 German film.

Shelves abound with classics from the 1940s and 50s including Adam's Rib with Spencer Tracy, The Caine Mutiny with Humphrey Bogart, Antony and Cleopatra, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Marilyn Monroe's early role in 1950's The Asphalt Jungle.

Also: Botany Bay with Alan Ladd, Flying Leathernecks with John Wayne, Marty with Ernest Borgnine, The Naked Jungle with Charlton Heston, A Place in the Sun with Elizabeth Taylor, and The Wild One, early Marlon Brando.

Movie rental fees range from $1.50 to $2.50, with a return deadline of midnight. Espresso drinks start at 50 cents, sandwiches at $3.50. You can conduct research on the Internet for $4 an hour.

The store also has books and games, anything that provokes intelligent conversation and thinking, they say.

Adds Yocum, Other than working 14 hours a day, we're having a lot of fun.

Michael Mitchell, left and William Yocum own The Video Cafe, a combination video rental store and coffee house. - Photo by Jim Craven