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Video Americain to Close Charles Village Location

March 7, 2012

Venerable regional video-rental chain Video Americain will close its Charles Village location on Monday, March 12. For nearly 20 years, the crammed basement space offered thousands of titles both popcorn-friendly and deeply obscure, serving as a neighborhood video spot for Charles Villagers and Hopkins students and an invaluable resource for Baltimore cinephiles.

“It’s a mix of business and health issues—events conspiring against me,” VA owner Barry Solan says when reached by phone. The rise of Netflix and Redbox as sources for DVD rentals and the ongoing boom in online streaming and downloading has devastated the brick-and-mortar rental business in recent years. The clientele at VA’s other Baltimore location on Cold Spring Lane in Roland Park “is less transient,” he adds, whereas the Charles Village location depended in large part on college students, “which is exactly the group that isn’t renting [DVDs] anymore.” Solan says that the fact that he may be undergoing heart surgery soon spurred him to go ahead and close the Charles Village location before a possible long recovery time.

He sounds surprisingly sanguine. “Everybody in the world knows that the video business is dying,” he says. “I always say you have to keep in mind that it’s not a failure—it’s like the Hanukkah story. It’s not that the oil lasted forever, but it lasted far longer than it was supposed to. It’s a miracle the stores have stayed open as long as they have.”

The Charles Village store will stop renting films on Monday, close for a few days, and then reopen Thursday, March 15 Friday, March 16, to begin selling off its voluminous collection. (Some rare titles will be folded into the collections at Cold Spring Lane and at the VA store in Takoma Park.) After two months at most, it will close its doors for good.

Solan says the two remaining VA locations will remain open, though he acknowledges, “We’re in discussions with both landlords about the future.”

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