Beyond Video, the nonprofit aiming to bring the old-school video store experience back to life, will open its doors to the public on Friday.
Organizers with the Baltimore Video Collective have amassed a collection of 10,000 titles on DVD, Blu-Ray and VHS tape. They will offer two types of memberships, for $12 or $20 per month, but otherwise operate more like a library by not tacking on any additional rental or late fees.
For the remainder of December, Beyond Video, located at 2545 N. Howard St. in the home of Reptilian Records, will be open Friday through Sunday, from 3-7 p.m., with plans to expand those hours in the new year.
Today’s announcement comes more than a year after the collective successfully raised $32,000 toward its goal of a non-profit video store, and six years since the collective formed and started gathering up movies.
“It’s amazing to see it,” said Eric Hatch, one of the Baltimore Video Collective founders. “We’ve been working on it ever since we saw the Charles Village location of Video Americain close.”
Nearly two years after closing the Charles Village store in 2012, the beloved local chain of video stores–Hatch was a manager at the Charles Village location for six years–closed its last shop, in Roland Park.
Like a lot of physical media, movies, and the way we watch them, has largely drifted online, in this case to streaming platforms that can be accessed by our smart TVs. As such, video stores have all but disappeared, with Blockbuster Video’s once-mighty empire now reduced to a single store in Bend, Oregon.
But smaller, more curated stores with knowledgeable staffs selling books and records–other examples of media once considered doomed–have flourished here and elsewhere, and Hatch said he thinks Beyond Video will fit that mold.
“The in-person recommendations and conversations are unbeatable in this kind of environment,” he said.
And while streaming services have lots of options, it’s not as though every film ever made is a click away. Netflix and Amazon, for example, cycle through titles–the latter can change which movies are free for Prime users–and focus more of their energies on creating original content.
And even streaming services created with film buffs in mind are not sure bets. FilmStruck, a service founded by Turner Classic Movies and dedicated to cinephiles, recently shuttered as part of a cost-cutting decision by parent company WarnerMedia. In the wake of FilmStruck’s demise, the Criterion Collection, a distribution company offering deluxe copies of classic and arthouse films, announced it would form its own service this spring, and indie studio A24 put its films on Kanopy, a streaming service available through most public libraries.
Even with those announcements by Criterion and A24, the killing of FilmStruck illustrates the tenuousness of digital platforms, Hatch said.
“All those movies that you’re watching with a click can disappear overnight.”
“The beauty of a video library,” he went on to say, “is that as long as the item is purchased and in good condition, it’s available to people.”
Beyond Video’s collection spans all genres and includes classic titles and obscure favorites, and like Video Americain, it will have a section with movies organized by director.
The store has a list of films it still hopes to acquire, but it will continue accepting donations of any DVDs and Blu-Rays so long as they have the original case and are in good condition.
Prior to Friday’s opening, the nonprofit opened for several days in October and November to allow Kickstarter backers to redeem offers for free movies. Some time in late January or early February, after its regular hours have been sorted out, Beyond Video will have its official grand opening, Hatch said.
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