Director of the cultural center of one of the last CT video libraries to retire after 27 years

After a career of 27 years, film buff Hank Hoffman, executive director of Best Video Film and Cultural Centerwill retire next June.

Hoffman has been instrumental in the success of BVFCC over the past decades, first joining the Hamden-based independent video store, Best Video, as Clerk in 1994 and rose through the ranks of the company as it transitioned to a non-profit cultural center in 2015. It was then that he became program director, a position he held for four years before succeeding to Richard Brown as Executive Director in 2019.

Sure, when it started, Hoffman was working with VHS tapes and competing with the world’s bestselling videos for business, but Best Video had a strong local following and that community support helped it become the cultural hub that she is today.

Best Video Film & Video Cultural Center, in Hamden, Connecticut, July 29, 2021.Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media

“I’ve always had a very strong interest in the arts, music and film,” Hoffman said. “I came here when I was finishing a graduate degree at Wesleyan and was looking for a part-time job, and I was already a patron of Best Video and a big movie fan, so I ended up working here . There was an amazing clientele and a great selection of movies. It was important for a healthy community.

At the same time, Hoffman worked as a freelancer for the New Haven Advocate, writing about the arts he loved.

Hamden's Best Video and Culture Center recently announced that executive director Hank Hoffman plans to retire in June 2022. Hoffman, 65, took over from Richard Brown as executive director in 2019 after four years as director of BVFCC programming.

Hamden’s Best Video and Culture Center recently announced that executive director Hank Hoffman plans to retire in June 2022. Hoffman, 65, took over from Richard Brown as executive director in 2019 after four years as director of BVFCC programming.

Raizine Bruton / Contributing photo

He loved working at Best Video, calling it very welcoming to people with artistic sensibilities, and he stayed because of the incredible community vibe.

“Original owner Hank Paper, who founded the store in 1985, was very social and really cultivated an atmosphere that made it a neighborhood hub,” Hoffman said. “Even when I worked full-time for the paper, I worked there alternate weekends to keep my hand.”

It was Hoffman who came up with the idea to book gigs in 2011 to keep the best video afloat when rentals dwindled to a bare minimum. It was also when it became a community-based nonprofit cultural organization, hosting film screenings, literary readings, film conferences, and community forums.

“When streaming started to knock down video stores one by one, because of my roots in the local New Haven music scene, once we started getting more floor space, we brought in musicians and went from one night a week to sometimes 3-4 nights a week,” Hoffman said. “We have installed projectors so that we can do film screenings and organize many other events.”

BVFCC participated in the annual meeting of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven Great Give Fundraising Marathon, and was able to raise enough money for an outdoor patio thanks to over 520 donors. This made it possible to do outdoor shows last year.

This is why, despite the pandemic, BVFCC was able to organize more than 100 music and film events in 2021.

“The fact that we’re still here is a tribute to people’s desire to meet in real space and get away from their screens and be among people to talk about culture, music or literature face to face. face,” Hoffman said. “The programming we do is at the heart of that. If we were just a video store, we would be long gone. Events are essential to maintain our connection with the community.

Having recently turned 66, Hoffman noted that since he and his wife were both healthy and in good enough shape to enjoy retirement, the timing made sense.

“Additionally, the organization is in a strong position to attract new leadership, and that was factored into my decision as well,” he said. In fact, BVFCC received a $25,800 operating support grant from the CT Cultural Fund last January.

“Being general manager and director of programming meant a lot of nights of work, and during the pandemic; I’ve had a lot more nights at home with my wife and really enjoyed that,” Hoffman said. “So it seemed like the perfect time to retire.”

Even though he retires, Hoffman’s connection to film and his passion for movies will continue.

“I think film is important because we’re a visual animal and the medium pulls you into the story – it touches our hearts in a very deep and deep way, whether it’s a drama, a tragedy, a comedy or a film noir,” he said. noted. “It’s also a ticket to life in cultures other than the ones we live in. There are all kinds of different perspectives.”

The BVFCC is currently looking for a new executive director, and while he or she won’t remember Best Video’s early days the way Hoffman did, he or she thinks it’s an exciting time for the BVFCC. ‘organization.

“I had the privilege of working at Best Video for 27 years,” he said. “It has an incredible archive of films and programs and it shows that people want to have this type of place in their neighborhood.”

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