Yes, Virginia, there is a happy ending for Videomatica's film collection.
Last year, Vancouver cinephiles were saddened by the announcement in May about the much-beloved Kitsilano video rental store's closure.
Although the rental store shut down on October 30, the sales department managed to continue on by moving across the street into Zulu Records in November.
However, concern was raised about what would happen to the store's extensive collection, which comprises more than 35,000 DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and VHS tapes, and is valued at $1.7 million. A fundraising campaign was launched in September to save the collection, which includes one of Vancouver's most comprehensive selections of rare, esoteric, classic, Canadian, art house, gay and lesbian, and cult titles.
On Monday (January 16), the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University announced that they will house and preserve the collection.
UBC purchased 4,151 VHS titles, plus DVDs and Blu-ray discs, from Videomatica for a total of $200,000 plus HST. Videomatica donated 27,957 DVDs, 4,000 VHS titles, and 900 foreign film Blu-ray discs (from over 75 countries) worth a total of $1,451,850. This part of the collection will be housed at UBC Library, with over 5,000 duplicates available at UBC's Department of Theatre and Film. The remainder of the collection, which includes about 2,800 documentaries, was purchased by and gifted to SFU.
Both UBC and SFU's collection will become available for borrowing in 2013. The UBC collection will be developed over the next 18 months for students, staff, faculty, and community borrowers. (The general public would need to acquire a community borrower card in order to borrow material.)
In a phone interview, Videomatica co-owner Graham X Peat credited community leader, academic, and philanthropist Yosef Wosk for not only donating but helping in efforts to save the collection. "He, right away, said, 'I will help you find the right solution for this,' " Peat said. "He had very strong ties with SFU, for whom he worked, and also he's a UBC grad...so there's enough connection there. And he kindly made sure we got in touch with all the right parties and arranged lots of meetings and was extremely helpful."
Peat added that Wosk helped to keep the campaign going. "We were floundering a bit because we'd gone to one particular institution and were getting nowhere with our first idea about donating it and it was getting way too complicated, so he came along at a really good time."
Peat said that he wanted to give a heartfelt thank you to all the customers and supporters who helped out. "There's two great messages they gave us: 'We'd like your collection to stay together' and 'Thank you for all the great things you gave us over the years.' They said really great things and we were really encouraged by that."
Videomatica began with only 400 titles when it was launched in 1983 by former UBC students Brian Bosworth and Peat. The store, which was located at 1855 West 4th Avenue, joined a wave of DVD rental store closures last year, including Happy Bats, Independent Flixx, and Blockbuster Video, as well as a few movie theatres.
Peat added that this collection will help to fill in the gap between what has been available on cassettes or discs and what is currently online. "People assume everything's available online right now and it's not true yet. So I think this will not only help the public not lose all of that but it will certainly make a really good contribution to the film department, and...they seem so enthused about the teaching aspects of it too so we were really encouraged by that tremendously. And that's why we tried to find a solution that would involve both of them [both universities] because they both had wonderful proposals and what they would do with it and how they'd have public access and preservation and we said, 'Great! Let's find a solution where we can all participate.' And that was the hardest part, but the best."
You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at twitter.com/cinecraig.