Some hard-core movie and video enthusiasts are raising money to open a video-rental store in Remington, the first in Baltimore since Video Americain shut its flagship Coldspring Lane location in March 2014.
To be called Beyond Video and planned for the North Howard Street building that once housed Reptilian Records, the hoped-for rental-store revival is the work of seven movie and video enthusiasts — all Video Americain alums — who have tagged themselves the Baltimore Video Collective, or BVC. The group already has collected about 5,000 DVDs, and they've opened a Kickstarter page with a goal of raising $30,000 by June 21.
"We think video stores are worth fighting for," the group says on its Kickstarter page. "A great video store is so much more than a place of business. The best video stores offer an immersive experience in every era, genre and region of film culture. Like great bookstores and record stores, video stores are centers of entertainment, learning and discovery; a record of our cultural history; and an exciting social space where friendships, ideas and collaborations are born."
As of Tuesday afternoon, the Kickstarter page had raised just under $4,000.
Eric Allen Hatch, director of programming for the Maryland Film Festival, is one of the seven people trying to get the project off the ground — part of an effort that's been building off and on for almost four years, ever since word came out that Video Americain, a chain that started in Baltimore and once included stores in Delaware, Virginia and Washington, would be shutting down.
Putting a video store back in Baltimore, enabling people to watch movies at home without fear of the scheduling vagaries that leave many films unavailable through Netflix and other streaming services, should fit in well with the city's growing film culture, Hatch said.
Earlier this month, the renovated 102-year-old Parkway theater, renamed the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway, opened as a permanent home for the Maryland Film Festival. And just a couple blocks east on North Avenue, a renovated Centre theater serves as headquarters for the film programs at Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Institute College of Art, bringing a steady stream of students and movie lovers into the Station North Arts District.
The proposed site for Beyond Video lies just a few blocks to the north.
"I've seen it succeed in other cities, like Toronto and Austin," says Hatch, a former manager of Video Americain's Charles Village location. "I think we're that kind of city, with a strong appreciation for home video."
The store would be run as a non-profit, Hatch said, with all revenue being used to acquire more movies, maintain the building and pay workers. Plans call for Beyond Video to open with about 10,000 items for rent, mostly DVDs, but also a smattering of Blu-rays and, in instances where movies aren't available in other formats, VHS tapes.
In addition to the Kickstarter campaign, Hatch said, the group will be announcing other fundraising initiatives in the coming weeks.