The Lost Arcade – A Documentary Film Review

The Lost Arcade

A Documentary Film Review

Lost-ArcadeA documentary by Kurt Vincent and Irene Chin

Official Synopsis: Chinatown Fair opened as a penny arcade on Mott Street in 1944. Over the decades, the dimly lit gathering place, known for its tic­tac­toe playing chicken, became an institution, surviving turf wars between rival gangs, changing tastes and the explosive growth of home gaming systems like Xbox and Playstation that shuttered most other arcades in the city. But as the neighborhood gentrified, this haven for a diverse, unlikely community faced its strongest challenge, inspiring its biggest devotees to next­level greatness.

Written and produced by Irene Chin and directed by Kurt Vincent, THE LOST ARCADE, is an intimate story of a once-ubiquitous cultural phenomenon on the edge of extinction, especially in New York City, which once had video arcades by the dozen. These arcades were as much social hubs to meet up and hang out as they were public arenas for gamers to demonstrate their skills. But by 2011, only a handful remained, most of them corporate affairs, leaving the legendary Chinatown Fair on Mott Street as the last hold-out of old-school arcade culture. Opened in the early 1940’s, Chinatown Fair, famous for its dancing and tic tac toe playing chickens, survived turf wars between rival gangs, increases in rent, and the rise of the home gaming system to become an institution and haven for kids from all five boroughs. A documentary portrait of the Chinatown Fair and its denizens, THE LOST ARCADE is a eulogy for and a celebration of the arcade gaming community, tenacity, and Dance Dance Revolutionary spirit.

The Lost Arcade plays out like a sonnet dedicated to the poignant memories of a time and place long gone; spent at the famous Chinatown Fair. Home to the dancing and Tic Tac Toe playing chickens. A lower Manhattan spot that’s garnered references in numerous films including a memorable one by Al Pacino in the film, The Devil’s Advocate. A spot frequented by much of New York City’s arcade playing subculture made up of kids, teens and young adults. In our lives we might have that one beloved setting. That one locale that always made us feel at home. For some it might be a bar or a club whereas for others it might be a park or public spot. For many youths it was Chinatown Fair. The last of a dying breed, and perhaps the most famous and well known of them all. An arcade on 8 Mott Street that’d been around since the mid 1940s and which, following its closing in early 2011, accumulated the sort of tributes written on the outside of its shuttered gate worthy of a beloved creature. Such were the broken hearts of diehard fans so devoted to Chinatown Fair.

Fittingly the film begins with our journey into Manhattan’s Chinatown from across the Manhattan Bridge as what I’d fathom to be poetic verse is recited. The filmmakers then ably but briefly chronicle the life of the arcade in our Metropolitan New York City area during the latter years of the last century into the beginning of the present one. We hear of the inevitable closings of other arcades as console and hand-held gaming stake their claims in the industry. Through vintage and recent photographs, in addition to interviews, Chinatown Fair’s story unfolds and we learn of its closing and subsequent reopening under new management. Something which was met with great disappointment by old devotees. We then discover how it was all not necessarily for naught considering its transformative rebirth via the appropriately named ‘Next Level Arcade’ in Brooklyn through the efforts of Chinatown Fair’s manager, Henry Cen; a man who’s presence throughout most of the film contributes greatly to its message.

I’m a big fan of well-done documentaries and this one doesn’t disappoint. Actually, I’m rather surprised to have been moved by something that’d been dedicated to the memory of (an) arcade(s) of all things. The closest I’ve ever come to being involved in modern day gaming, aside from my old dust collecting Xbox Console, was spending time as a kid after elementary school at this local candy store perfecting my ‘Defender’ action-game skills. That’s the beauty here. If you can tell a story to someone, who’s not entirely into that particular subject and leave them with a gleam in their eye, then you know you’ve done an ace job. If you can aptly engage your audience and touch their hearts then your task is done.

There are tons of stories yet to be shared about the people, neighborhoods and elements that make up New York City’s history. I can only hope that when they’re expressed they’re done with as much care and heart as this story’s been told. To the folks who put this little gem together? I salute you.

 

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

I wanted to make a movie that gave you the feeling of being in Chinatown Fair because that’s what inspired me to make the movie. The Lost Arcade is about staying up all night with your friends in a hot, loud, and packed arcade. At Chinatown Fair, Irene and I found the most diverse community of friends we have ever seen and this movie is a celebration of that and what made it possible. That’s what this movie is really asking: How did this place ever exist? How did this arcade manage to break down all social barriers that usually prevent seemingly disparate people from connecting with one another?

Being my first documentary I wanted more than anything to create a work that could only have come from my hands ­ something personal and honest. In that respect I succeeded.

BIOGRAPHIES

Kurt Vincent, director / producer / editor

Kurt Vincent is a Brooklyn based filmmaker. His film projects include, Out Of Place, a documentary about the unlikely surfing community in Cleveland, Ohio. He shot and produced The Bachelorette Party, a short experimental film directed by Irene Chin, which premiered at Anthology Film Archives in 2014. Kurt co­founded the distribution company 26 Aries in 2016.

Irene Chin, producer/writer

Irene Chin is an NYC based artist and filmmaker. She attended the School of Visual Arts where she first started working with video. Her experimental film, “The Bachelorette Party”, screened at Anthology Film Archives. She is producer and writer for, The Lost Arcade. Irene co­founded the distribution company 26 Aries in 2016.

More:

Written and produced by Irene Chin and directed by Kurt Vincent, THE LOST ARCADE, is an intimate story of a once-ubiquitous cultural phenomenon on the edge of extinction, especially in New York City, which once had video arcades by the dozen. These arcades were as much social hubs to meet up and hang out as they were public arenas for gamers to demonstrate their skills. But by 2011, only a handful remained, most of them corporate affairs, leaving the legendary Chinatown Fair on Mott Street as the last hold-out of old-school arcade culture. Opened in the early 1940’s, Chinatown Fair, famous for its dancing and tic tac toe playing chickens, survived turf wars between rival gangs, increases in rent, and the rise of the home gaming system to become an institution and haven for kids from all five boroughs. A documentary portrait of the Chinatown Fair and its denizens, THE LOST ARCADE is a eulogy for and a celebration of the arcade gaming community, tenacity, and Dance Dance Revolutionary spirit.

By | 2018-02-03T19:58:14+00:00 August 9th, 2016|Film - Arts Review, New York City / NYC, The Arts|Comments Off on The Lost Arcade – A Documentary Film Review