Video Americain: A World of Cinema in a Baltimore Basement

I was reading an article in a recent issue of Time magazine that was about Blockbuster and it’s recent woes due to mismanagement and general lack of vision as it’s share of the movie rental biz is being eaten away by Netflix.  The article begins with this sentence, “In retrospect, it seems obvious that the practice of driving to a store to rent a movie to watch at home was preordained to extinction.”  That makes sense.  It also makes sense that the business model set forth by Netflix would be so successful.  Generally, we human beings like things to be very easy to use and quick and we don’t seem to be slowing down anytime  soon.

I get that, I’m often of the same mind set, but as a film buff I have trouble with both Blockbuster and Netflix.  I love movies, but I never belonged to a Blockbuster because, let’s face it-it’s slim pickins.  It has 50 copies of the most recent Hollywood hits and a lot of the old classics but nothing else really.  The big problem with Netflix is…well…there’s no there, there.  Scrolling through available titles on a website does not replace the sheer enjoyment of browsing a brick and mortar location.  taking my time, seeking out the rare, the hard to find or that film I’ve always wanted to see but have never had the chance.  That’s where Video Americain comes in.(

Like I said, I love movies and I take a pride in being that guy that people ask for recommendations or just thoughts and feelings about film.  I think it’s cool when people talk to me about a movie and I haven’t seen it.  It’s cool that folks would believe that I HAD seen it, ‘ya know?

I honestly don’t know when the Baltimore locations were opened but I’ve known of Video Americain since the 90’s.  As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure the Video Americain on Cold Spring Lane was used as a video rental store, of all things, in John Water’s film, “Serial Mom”.  How perfect that the only place in the world that I know of that has Water’s very early film, Mondo Trasho for rental is featured in one of his movies.

Of course, It’s not only John Water’s films but pretty much any film that you can think of and thousands that you can’t.  From Altman to Zeffirelli and every great director in between…and some not so great directors.  That is one of Video Americain’s superior features, the “Directors Room”.  I love to browse and wait for a film or director to jump out at me, particularly if I’ve never seen any of that director’s work before.  Even better when I haven’t  heard of the director before!  I had the great fortune to rent a movie called, “Underground” directed by Emir Kusturica. I’d never heard of it or him and I am not ashamed to report that I picked it up because the cover depicted a beautiful, 1940’s-ish looking blond in a slinky red dress hanging from the cannon of a WWII tank.  “Underground” was one of the most interesting and entertaining films that I have ever seen.

Video Americain lets me scratch my Jean-Luc Godard itch whenever I want to.  I was assigned Godard’s “Masculin/Feminin for a college course and that was awesome because I had always wanted to start working through his body of work after reading about how influential a filmmaker he’s been for the past 20 years.

Video Americain also has a genre room if you don’t want to be all auteur-centric.  What’s also cool is that they have a ton of films on VHS…yeah, I know, it’s zany!

Are you interested in the very latest films coming out of Korea, Israel, Russia, Latin America or Africa?  They have them.  Gay/Lesbian/Transgendered films?  Yes, Again.

If you love movies and you are in Baltimore, or Takoma Park, MD or even Newark, Delaware; you are in luck and it won’t feel like a chore to drive to the video store, particularly if you live in the neighborhoods of Charles Village or Waverly in Baltimore because you can just stroll to the basement of the St. Paul Apartments and lose yourself for hours.  If you don’t live in Baltimore, they have a website, check out their wares and read their story and get some stuff from them online.  You’ll be the coolest cinemaphile on the block, no matter where that block is.


The Saint Paul Street location in Charles Village-Baltimore, MD



Jean-Luc Godard doing something cool and filmic!


About scottcarberry

I'm one nifty dude who is fascinated by his hometown; Baltimore, MD. It is persistently beautiful and ugly and I wish to live nowhere else ever again.
This entry was posted in actors, baltimore, cinema, fashion, film directors, film in Baltimore, film locations, foreign films, John Waters, life, md, media, movie rentals, movies, society, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Video Americain: A World of Cinema in a Baltimore Basement

  1. Carrie O. says:

    They also have THE LARGEST silent film collection I’ve ever seen. I have a collection of them myself, but it’s just so refreshing to see the films in a retail setting. Don’t forget the Coldspring store! Allan and I walk there all the time. 🙂

  2. Ugly Bug says:

    Sounds like a wonderful place to visit. If you ever come to San Francisco, be sure to check out Le Video in the Inner Sunset. It makes a great side trip if you’re attending the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

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