The stock of Roland Park's Video Americain, possibly Baltimore's last video rental store, will be up for grabs next week, after negotiations for a single buyer to purchase the store's 35,000-unit inventory failed.
Store owners Barry and Annie Solan had hoped to keep the inventory intact, and a group calling itself the Baltimore Video Collective had been negotiating with the Solans to do just that. But in the end, the two sides could not agree on a price for Baltimore's premier video collection, one that included everything from the silents of D.W. Griffith to the films of the "Twilight" franchise.
"It's a darn shame; it's exactly what we didn't want to happen," said Barry Solan, who opened Video Americain in March 1989 in an old gas station on Cold Spring Lane. "Annie, especially, really wanted to sell it as a group, as a legacy for the 25 years."
Organizers of the BVC, many of whom had worked at or been customers of Video Americain in the past, said they regretted not being able to keep the collection together. But they vowed to continue working toward their goal of amassing a video collection and running a rental store on a nonprofit basis.
"We're extremely disappointed," said the BVC's Eric Hatch, director of programming for the Maryland Film Festival. "The Video Americain collection is obviously a testament to how great Video Americain and Barry and Annie are. … Everybody in this community has a very personal connection to that collection."
The Solans decided in August that they would close the Roland Park location, the last of what had once been a six-store chain, and told the building's owner they would be out by the spring.
Discussions with the BVC began soon after the Solans announced their decision, and continued until last week. But after extended haggling over how much the collection was worth and what percentage of that worth the BVC would pay — Barry Solan said he would have been willing to sell the entire inventory for about $80,000, while Hatch said the BVC was working toward purchasing its core for about $55,000 — the Solans decided to sell off the collection piecemeal.
"They never were willing to believe the value of the inventory," Barry Solan said.
The BVC had planned to raise money through a Kickstarter campaign to buy the collection, but its members were hesitant to start before settling on a price, Hatch said. While acknowledging it is unlikely it will find a similarly extensive collection for sale, he said, the BVC should be able to put together a similar list of mostly new DVDs for roughly the asking price of Video Americain's rental inventory.
"Obviously, we would like to avoid the work of that," Hatch said. "It's not something that happens overnight."
For their part, the Solans said they put off plans to sell their inventory, or to seek other offers, in anticipation of reaching a deal with the BVC. With that no longer happening, and not enough time left to explore other similar deals, they plan to begin selling off their DVDs and VHS tapes on Dec. 6.
In February 2012, they shut their Charles Village location after a months-long store-closing sale. And even though video sales are down, with more and more people relying on the Internet and services like Netflix to get their movies, Barry Solan remains confident he'll have no trouble finding new homes for DVDs and VHS tapes with a Video Americain pedigree.
"When a store like this goes on sale, people come out," he said. "At least as of last February, there was still a lot of pent-up demand from people to come in and pick apart what is essentially a film museum's store."