San Francisco

What's The Deal With Le Video's Missing 90,000-Film Archive?

When 35-year-old Inner Sunset video store Le Video closed last December, its 90,000-title archive was quickly acquired, in a partnership between the Alamo Drafthouse theater chain and Academy Award-winning production company Annapurna Pictures.

In their announcement of the purchase, the two companies said they planned to make "portions" of the archive available "soon" at Alamo's restored New Mission cinema, which opened in mid-December. The films were set to be displayed alongside titles from Lost Weekend Video, a Valencia Street video store that lost its lease last year and moved into a kiosk in the theater's lobby.

But eight months later, only films from Lost Weekend's collection are available in the lobby, according to tipster Patty C. So what's happened to all the titles from Le Video? 

Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League gave a media tour of the New Mission theater in December 2015. | PHOTO: WALTER THOMPSON/HOODLINE

"That's a question we get," said Mike Keegan, the New Mission theater's film programmer. While Le Video's archive is intact and "in storage," he said, "we're still figuring out the next steps ... We've had conversations about integrating [the two collections], but right now, it hasn't happened."

Le Video's archive includes 90,000 tapes and discs. | Photo: Le Video/Indiegogo

Although Lost Weekend offers kiosk customers a chance to browse its entire archive, it only keeps a few thousand titles on hand, Keegan said. The owners of the Lost Weekend kiosk currently sublease their lobby space from Alamo, operating as a separate business. "As good neighbors, it seems better to have friends run a video store here."

Le Video, on the other hand, went out of business entirely. It initially leased its ground floor to Green Apple Books on the Park, operating out of the upstairs mezzanine, but after it closed and sold its archive, that space also went up for lease. (As of last month, the 1,500-square-foot mezzanine was still on the market; it's being advertised as a coworking space.) 

Although "you can have a small footprint" and still offer rentals, there's just not enough room for two separate collections in the lobby, Keegan said. 

Le Video liquidated part of its inventory before shuttering. | PHOTO: LE VIDEO/FACEBOOK

Keegan couldn't offer a timeline for opening up Le Video's collection of DVDs, Blu-Rays, and VHS tapes to the public, but he assured local film fans that "we're looking for ways to make it available."

While Alamo and Annapurna were perhaps overly optimistic about the timeline for making Le Video's collection available ("With their timeline of closing, we needed to act on it by acquiring it immediately," Keegan explained), he's also "100 percent" certain that the archive will stay in San Francisco. "I would say, stay tuned."


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