Caine's Arcade: a story of enterprise and kindness

entertainment | Apr 14, 2012 | By Martin Barillas

A plucky nine-year-old boy in California has now more than $150,000 to apply towards his education because of thousands of admirers from across the world. His imagination, hard work, and entrepreurial skills were broadcast on the Net by the short film ‘Caine’s Arcade’, which has now garnered more than 3.5 million views on Vimeo and Youtube in just four days.

Caine’s Arcade is about Caine Monroy, a boy with a winning smile and a can-do attitude that has won the hearts of everyone who sees the film. Caine, who spends his summer vacations at his father’s used car parts store – Smart Auto Parts , had asked his father – George – about getting a claw-machine for the store. George urged Caine to build one himself. So, Caine, who had already shown a knack for making small change, used cardboard scraps that he salvaged and then turned into imaginative arcade-style games, complete with a manually-operated ticket dispenser. Caine made plans for lots of customers at his dream arcade, investing time in designing games, making displays for prizes, and putting together prizes in paper lunchbags.

The first installation was a basketball game with a little plastic hoop that he got at Shakey's Pizza and taped to a cardboard box. Caine also made a soccer game with little plastic green army men acting as fixed goalies, and he even created a claw machine with an S-hook and a piece of yarn. George was amazed.

Caine located his arcade at the store. Smart Auto Parts, however, is located in an industrial district in East Los Angeles and sees very little foot traffic. The few customers who do visit the car parts business are usually in a hurry, and don’t stop to play with Caine’s games.

By serendipity, or some other force, a filmmaker walked into Smart Auto Parts and changed Caine’s luck. Nirvan Mullick recounted, “One day, by chance, I walked into Smart Parts Auto looking for a used door handle for my ’96 Corolla. What I found was an elaborate handmade cardboard arcade manned by a young boy who asked if I would like to play. I asked Caine how it worked and he told me that for $1 I could get two turns, or for $2 I could get a Fun Pass with 500 turns. I got the Fun Pass.”

Mullick got to play the arcade games, and was taken by Caine’s winning personality and his story. Using his filmmaking and social media skills, he latched onto a plan to tell a story that would captivate viewers, and donors. Mullick asked George whether he could make a film about Caine and the arcade. "Well, actually, it's kind of like a joke around here because you are his only customer," George says in the film. But Mullick changed that.

Mullick went on to create flashmob of people, having set up a Facebook event for the mob, which was then posted at Hidden LA and then Reddit. Even people from other parts of the world wanted to come for the event, organized last year, lamenting that they were not able to make it. Dozens ultimately arrived at the store to play games while Caine was away. As Caine and George spent some time together elsewhere, the flashmob grew and it was standing-room only at the store as they awaited Caine’s return.

As shown in the film, Caine was elated and nearly dumbstruck as he saw dozens of children and adults cheering him and holding signs praising Caine’s Arcade. After that, film crews and reporters have been lining up in the East LA ‘hood to interview Caine and his father about the arcade and the flashmob. Now, that school is back in session, the arcade is open only on weekends.

The website for the video has now gathered more than $150,000 for Caine’s education and, with a true American entrepreneurial spirit – T-shirts advertising Caine’s Arcade will soon be available.

Mullick’s kindness and initiative had changed a boy’s life. And after the flashmob, Caine and George drove home, Caine turned to his father and said, “Dad, this was the best day of my whole life.”  Get out the tissues. This film makes even grown men weep.



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