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Naro Video gets its permanent home at ODU

Naro owners Linda McGreevy and Tim Cooper donated 43,000 movies to ODU Libraries when the Naro video collection closed in 2019. (Photo by Nick McNamara)
Naro owners Linda McGreevy and Tim Cooper donated 43,000 movies to ODU Libraries when the Naro video collection closed in 2019. (Photo by Nick McNamara)

 

Naro Expanded Video closed its doors in 2019 after a 30-year run in the video rental business, unable to stay afloat financially in an ecosystem dominated by digital streaming. 

At the helm since 1996, store owners Linda McGreevy and Tim Cooper didn’t want their catalog of more than 43,000 movies to be picked apart and decided to donate the entirety to Old Dominion University in 2020. 

The movies moved into a 4,600-square-foot space in the Perry Library housing that opened for browsing on March 2.

“It’s the culmination of four years worth of work by the library staff to prepare this amazing collection,” said ODU Libraries Dean Tim Hackman. “The library staff received thousands of items basically the day that the campus closed for COVID in 2020.”

Those four years were spent cataloging the extensive list of titles for library records and giving the physical space, which once held government documents, a makeover. 

“We wanted to really preserve some of the feel of the Naro Expanded Video store,” Hackman said. “But we also really wanted to transform it into an academic resource and also into a space that the students can still use for studying and learning.”

The collection is familiarly organized by genre or country of origin for foreign films, with a rotation of curated shelves based on timely themes. A mural leads into the space, decorated with hand drawn signs and movie posters. The old neon Naro sign, currently in the front of the Perry Library, will eventually find a home in the space.

Curator Kris King envisions the collection as a community space and a hub for independent filmmaking down the line, as well as a place for “no safety rails” exploration.

“Which is really important considering the streaming landscape that is right now,” King said. “We still have 15,000 titles more than all of the major streaming services combined.”

A patron of Naro dating to his youth, King said it provided his first exposure to Black and LGBT cinema and a variety of niche films on DVD and VHS. Continuing that legacy at ODU is all the more essential for King in an environment where access to media touching on difficult subjects or showcasing diverse viewpoints is increasingly scrutinized. 

“The more you look and the deeper in the water that you get, you’re more likely to find something that’s either shocking or something that you’ve never seen before,” he said. “But in those moments you find growth and insight, and you see perspectives that you would have never imagined that you would have got.”

But not all of the collection is heavy. The collection includes an extensive kids’ section, a selection of animated films and popular releases shown in theaters nationwide. 

Alongside continuing ongoing screenings in partnership with Naro Cinema and the university planetarium, King and Hackman also have plans for the installation of a screen to showcase films in the new space at Perry Library.

“We could put 30 to 40 seats in here and have a little showing, and faculty could come and talk about whatever was going on,” Hackman said. “It would be a really intimate sort of space surrounded by all these great movies on either side.”

That, alongside maintaining and adding to the collection, is not without a cost. Hackman said they will be seeking philanthropic contributions and building a $1-2 million endowment to ensure the Naro collection remains open and available. “They outlasted their chief corporate rival, Blockbuster, by almost 10 years ... in a tough market,” said King. “It’s a huge success and to be able to carry that on here is a real privilege.”

ODU students and personnel can borrow movies from the Naro collection for free. For those unaffiliated with the university, movies can be checked out by purchasing an annual Friends of the ODU Libraries membership.

Nick is a general assignment reporter focused on the cities of Williamsburg, Hampton and Suffolk. He joined WHRO in 2024 after moving to Virginia. Originally from Los Angeles County, Nick previously covered city government in Manhattan, KS, for News Radio KMAN.

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