Who is the Baltimore Video Collective?
The BVC is a volunteer collective behind Baltimore’s all-volunteer, not-for-profit video rental library called Beyond Video! All of us are longtime Baltimore residents active in this city’s cultural life. Each of us has several years of experience working for and/or managing independent video stores.
Where is Beyond Video located, and when are you open?
2545 N. Howard St. in the Remington neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Look for the giant swirl mural on the rowhouse next to The Ottobar; you can’t miss us! Our current public hours are every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 3-9pm.
Is Beyond Video a video store?
Close, but not exactly. We’ve re-imagined the independent video-rental store of yesteryear as a non-profit video library for today and beyond. The look and feel of Beyond Video is much like a mom ‘n’ pop video store, but to keep physical-media culture alive and sustainable in Baltimore we’ve taken the concept of the Great Baltimore Video-Rental Store and revamped it with a new non-profit, volunteer-run engine.
Why do you have limited hours?
Because all of us who work here, even the owners, are volunteers! Since we all have other primary jobs, we’ll likely never be open 7 days a week, but before COVID we had Thursday through Sunday public hours, and we expect to bring back all of those hours (in addition to our current public hours of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 3-9pm) once it feels safe to do so.
Does the “Video” in “Beyond Video” mean VHS tapes?
No, we are using the term “video” as a shorthand term for all home-video physical-media formats. Our collection is primarily DVDs, but we also have several thousand blu-rays, as well as a few hundred VHS titles that are hard to find on disc or never made it to higher-definition formats than videocassette.
How large is your collection?
As of August 2021, our video library includes over 21,000 unique titles. That breaks down as approximately 16,500 DVDs, 4,000 blu-rays, and 500 VHS tapes. We add new and new-to-us titles each and every week!
Do you sell movies?
Short answer: no. Long answer: we sometimes have a very small selection of used VHS and DVD items (unneeded duplicates of titles we carry in the library) available for small donations.
How do movie loans work at Beyond?
We operate on a membership-support basis. Supporters make small donations via our fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas to help us sustain and grow our library; as a perk, supporters receive borrowing privileges from that library. In other words, once you’re a supporter of Beyond Video, you can borrow movies from our library much as you would at an old-school video store, only with no rental fees or late fees! Read more (and even start the process of signing up) here.
Did you just say “no late fees”?!??!
Yes indeed: no late fees, ever. Because of our non-profit structure and collective ownership, we eschew the “penalization” mentality of the late-fees system at traditional video stores, with donors receiving borrowing privileges instead of paying “a la carte” rentals or any fees. We do ask that you return items as soon as you’re able as a courtesy to other members, and early returns are always appreciated.
Do you need a rental membership to borrow items from Beyond Video?
Yes, and during COVID we ask that you establish your membership remotely, in advance. Feel free to browse our collection in person before signing up, but if you want to establish a membership we may be too busy to do so in-store (the data-entry ties up our computer for 5-10 minutes). So if you already know for sure you’d like to borrow titles from us, feel free to read over, fill out, and sign this membership form and then make your first donation online. Then email us your completed membership form at baltimorevideocollective “at” gmail, or bring in a printed and signed copy during your first visit.
Does Beyond Video carry new releases?
Yes, the Beyond Video collection aims to serve all general-interest and new-release needs as well as maintain a strong core of art-house offerings (including but not limited to classic, foreign, independent, documentary, cult, and LGBTQ films). Our new-release section aims to stay diverse, fresh, and robust. For instance, here’s how our new release wall looked in March 2021.
Can I donate DVDs and blu-rays to Beyond?
Absolutely! We use our limited monthly budget to order recent releases, but the core of our collection was crowdsourced, and we rely entirely on kind donations to keep building our back catalog. We have a wish list of individual DVDs we’ve noticed we don’t own yet, but these are just suggestions. We will gladly accept *any* donations of commercially issued DVDs or blu-rays as long as they are still in working condition, and still have their cases and artwork. And yes, if you insist, we’d also settle for a donation of funds. 🙂
HOW do I donate DVDs and blu-rays to Beyond?
If you live in Baltimore and have less than 10 discs to donate, please feel free to slip them through the mail slot in our front door any time we’re closed, or bring them into our library during our public hours. However, due to our limited hours, please do not ship donations to the library. If you have a large donation and/or need our shipping address, please email baltimorevideocollective “at” gmail and we’ll get back to you ASAP.
Do you only accept donations of movies on your wish list?
No! We happily accept donations of any DVDs or blu-rays, even if we already own them and/or they’re not on our wish lists. Our DVD wish list is simply suggested titles we’ve noticed we don’t own or that customers have requested we carry. In addition to that DVD wish list, we also maintain individual wish lists for DVDs and/or blu-rays issued by the following specialty labels: Arrow/Arrow Academy, Criterion Collection, Scream Factory, Twilight Time, Vinegar Syndrome, and Warner Archives.
Can I donate VHS tapes, laserdiscs, books, records, CDs, DVD-Rs, or other formats?
Short answer: no. Long answer: storage at Beyond is limited, so we’ve chosen to limit donations to the two formats that circulate the most, DVDs and blu-rays. However, if you think you have rare VHS titles (read: titles you believe were never issued on DVD or are out of print on DVD), please feel free to email us at baltimorevideocollective “at” gmail to let us know what you have.
Do you buy used movies?
No, unfortunately we have no budget for doing so. Beyond Video is an all-volunteer passion project and we rely on donations to build our video library’s back catalog.
How is Beyond Video’s inventory organized?
Our inventory is spread across two floors. On the entrance level, we have our new releases, house favorites, documentaries, local films, family films, tv series, and specialty sections for the Criterion and Oscilloscope labels.
Most of the collection is upstairs, where we have… everything else! Our largest room is organized by director, and any work by one of our 350+ directors from all over the world will be in their section (read: there are hundreds more Criterion titles up there, Criterion addicts!)
Our other sections upstairs include but aren’t limited to Classics (films released prior to 1970, including silents), Foreign, LGBTQ Interest, Horror, Dramas, Cult Films, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Martial Arts, Comedy, Action, UK/Canada/Down Under, UK tv series, Musicals, Standup, and Romance.
Discs and tapes are not kept in their display cases. Bring forward the display cases for the items you’d like to borrow. Behind our front desk is just our storage area for the library; if you start wandering back there, as many do, we’ll politely ask ya not to.
Can I browse your collection online?
No, our collection is too large and we add titles too frequently to make this feasible, but we’re always happy to answer questions about what we do and don’t have (email preferred). Our Instagram is chock full of pictures of our incoming inventory.
How long are the rental periods for movies in your collection?
Our new releases have a suggested return date of a week after renting; all other titles have a suggested return date of two weeks after renting. Again, we have no late fees, so if your suggested return date passes, you’ll get an email reminder, and if it’s far past you’ll get a call or text. We do, of course, expect items to be returned, and reserve the right to consider movies stolen and to be replaced at your expense if they remain overdue far past their suggested due dates.
Can I return discs borrowed from Beyond Video when Beyond is closed?
Yes please! Discs can be returned 24/7 and returns while we’re closed are always appreciated! When we’re open, please bring them to the front counter. When we’re closed, please feel free to drop them through the mail slot in our front door. This is especially helpful during COVID, as that allows us to sanitize our returns before the doors open for the weekend.
Can I renew items borrowed from Beyond Video?
Yes, titles can generally be renewed one time after their initial rental, as long as no one else has placed a reserve on that item. Inquiring about a renewal can be done in person or over email.
Can I request holds on items borrowed from Beyond Video?
Yes, any existing member can request to be notified when a checked-out title is returned. Please do so in-person.
Is Beyond Video’s collection part of — or even all of — the old Video Americain collection?
No, but we are highly inspired by the late, great Video Americain. Most of us involved in Beyond Video spent many years shopping at, working for, and even managing locations of Video Americain. And the Baltimore Video Collective did initially form in the hopes of preserving the collection(s) of one or more Video Americain locations in its entirety. However, when that proved impossible due to time and money constraints, we began building a new collection from scratch in the mid-2010s, and opened the doors of Beyond Video in 2018. While the building that housed Video American’s flagship location on Cold Spring Lane is no longer standing, it was immortalized in John Waters’ film Serial Mom; check out some awesome screencaps here!
Does Beyond Video have an adult section?
This is indeed a frequently asked (and legitimate) question, and so far, no. In the 1990s many independent video stores with an art-house focus relied on revenue from adult titles to remain financially competitive with chain stores. However, we also have a sense that the internet has changed access to adult content substantially, and our priority right now is building the general collection for our world-cinema library.
Do DVDs play on blu-ray players. Do blu-rays play on DVD players?
Most DVDs will play on most blu-ray players; zero blu-rays will play on almost any DVD player. So if you’re thinking about acquiring a new device to access Beyond Video’s home-video library, a blu-ray player will give you access to the overwhelming majority of our inventory. Note: many people already have DVD players they’ve forgotten about in the house (think: old laptops) and blu-ray players they never knew they owned (think: certain gaming devices that also play other kinds of discs).
Do you rent or sell DVD, VHS, or blu-ray players?
No. This is primarily due to our limited storage space. Also, we don’t want to field phone call and emails about how to connect or fix various devices. But blu-ray players that also play DVDs are widely available, and DVD players and VCRs may be found at used retailers such as thrift stores, pawn shops, flea markets, garage sales, Craigslist, and ebay.
Do you carry 3D blu-rays? What about 4K Ultra HD blus?
We have dozens of 3D blu-rays and a smattering of 4K Ultra discs, but we’re not making them a priority when ordering new releases as we’ve yet to see a tipping point of interest for either format in our customer base. We happily accept donations of these formats, and the titles we do have came through those channels.
Do you carry imported DVDs and blu-rays?
We have a fair number of PAL DVDs and Region 2 blu-rays, all of which are marked as such since most require special players to access these discs’ content. We only put these formats out for rental when the title in question is either not available or extremely rare on US DVD or blu-ray.
I’m in Beyond Video right now and I don’t see the movie I want to rent. Does this mean you don’t own it?
No, not necessarily. The film could well be checked out; display cases are kept behind the counter for any titles that are checked out, which is typically 500-700 titles at any given moment (or roughly 2-3% of our collection). It might also be a film kept in a hidden corner of our space. Feel free to ask after any title(s) you don’t see. If you have a long list (think: five titles or more) please either email that list or find a moment when we’re slow to have us look into the list.
I only see a blu-ray display case for the movie I want to rent. Does this mean you don’t own it on DVD?
No, the DVD may be checked out, or the title may be a “dual-format” release, meaning the DVD and blu-ray were packaged together in one blu-ray case. If the blu-ray case only represents a blu-ray copy, it will have a sticker reading “Blu-ray Edition” and we will have a separate DVD display case (if we own that title on DVD). If the blu-ray case was a “dual-format” title and represents both a DVD and blu-ray copy, it will have a sticker reading “Available on DVD and blu-ray. Which would you like?” In those cases, we own the film on both formats, but will need to check if the title is currently in or checked out on your preferred format. That said, some films are only issued on one format, and there are some titles available on both formats that we only own on one. Read more about dual-format releases and how we display them here!
I’d like to volunteer at Beyond Video; how do I get started?
Thanks so much! We have volunteer application forms we can provide upon request at the front desk. Please note that we’re most likely to reach out to potential volunteers who are already regular movie-borrowers at Beyond Video, since learning the layout of our library and our loan policies takes time, and regulars have already familiarized themselves with much of that info. So whether you’re new in town or a lifelong Baltimorean, coming into Beyond Video and getting to know us and our collection is always the best first step!
How else can I help?
Spread the word about our project! If you’re in town and well-versed in movies and video-store culture, inquire about volunteering! Start a video store in your town! Follow us on social (this is us on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram)!
I’m thinking about starting a similar project in my community. Could it work?
That’s awesome! We do think similar projects could work just about anywhere of a certain population size, and we try to be as open-source as possible about how we built Beyond, what works and what doesn’t, etc. Read this free article by one of our founders about how to start a non-profit video library in your town! After reading, feel free to email us at baltimorevideocollective “at” gmail, and we’ll be as helpful as we can!
I’ve heard Beyond Video can get very busy. Can this possibly be true?
Yes, believe it! During COVID we limit our capacity, and often have a line down the block to get in and browse. Our busiest hours tend to be Saturday 3-5pm and Sunday 8-9pm, so based on anecdotal evidence we suggest coming other hours if you’re not into lines. Establishing your membership remotely in advance, emailing any complicated questions rather than asking them in-store, and returning rentals when we’re closed will help us volunteers keep any lines moving as fast as possible.
I want to start borrowing items from Beyond Video ASAP!
Awesome! During COVID we ask that you establish your membership remotely, in advance. Please feel free to read over, fill out, and sign this membership form, then make your first support donation.
What sort of movies rent the most at Beyond Video!
Check out a list of our all-time top-renting titles here.
Who designed your awesome storefront?
Our friends Bruce and Nolen of Post Typography; they also did our logo, t-shirt, buttons, totes, etc. Our exterior mural designed by Post Typography was painted by Signs of Intelligent Life.
You didn’t answer my question!
Oops, sorry about that! Email us at baltimorevideocollective “at” gmail, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
Are you on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter?
But of course! Click below to check us out on the social(s) of your choice.