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Local video store killed by streaming, but preserved

Local video mainstay Video Americain’s Roland Park store is the latest casualty of the rise of digital distribution. Barry and Annie Solan have run multiple video rental stores since 1986, each under the name Video Americain. One such store was the nearby Roland Park branch. At its height, Video Americain had four different branches in Charles Village, Newark, Takoma Park, and Roland Park. Now, Video Americain is all but gone.
Annie Solan attributes this directly to a shift towards online streaming video: “…students abandoning the store for online streaming was sort of the canary in the coalmine.”
I was able to see just how well the Roland Park community loved their little video store December 6th, when the final sale of the store began. Soft rain fell on a line of more than 30 people that trailed all the way out of the door. Two dentists stood on either side of me, catching up on years and names neither of them quite remembered. Many in the line compared movie lists and, despite there being a large number of customers in the small store, the whole event seemed to go smoothly.
A few Loyola professors of the Film Studies minor were meticulously pulling boxes from Americain’s shelves in order to help preserve the dignity of what was once a major distributor of film to the surrounding city. As Barry Solan described it, “This isn’t a video rental store, it’s an art gallery!”
The efforts of these professors were headed up by Dr. Nicholas Miller of the English department who has pressed on with the rather arduous but fulfilling job of preserving Americain’s thorough collection. Video Americain had been in talks with the Loyola Notre Dame Library in an attempt to preserve the collection in its entirety, but were ultimately refused. Dr. Miller and other film studies professors are working on obtaining almost 600 titles to possibly create a Film Studies lending library in the Modern Languages Lab. (Check out Loyola Video Americain Purchase and The Loyola Film Society on Facebook). This library could be used by professors, students, and film-oriented clubs on campus.
There is no denying the impact that online video streaming services have had on the rental industry. I’ve heard people lament the loss of pizza and movie nights with their families on Fridays after going out earlier to get a rental, or the curiosity of walking through aisles and aisles of movies in their younger years.
Annie encapsulated the end of Video Americain’s run in a striking anecdote: “Barry likes to say that he knew it was all over when a 70 something blue-haired Roland Park lovely lady had come in looking for the film Before Sunrise before they went to The Charles to see Before Midnight. There had been a huge rush to get Sunrise, as people wanted to watch it again before the new Midnight came out. She had been patiently waiting on the waiting list for some time when finally she said, ‘I really wanted to get it from you…’ but she ended up downloading it off the internet.”
Annie Solan’s mind was elsewhere the night before the big sale. She had the closing of her dream job to take care of, and was preparing to see the movies that she and her husband had worked so hard to put on shelves leave, never to return. Her hands fumbled with Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights as she related how it felt to let go of the store: “We had 25 great years doing exactly what we wanted to do and something that we really loved, I don’t know how many people can say that.”

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Local video store killed by streaming, but preserved