Videomatica has struck a tentative deal to preserve its collection of 35,000 classic and cult films, and that treasure trove of cinematography could end up on university library shelves after the 28-year-old video store closes operations.
The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University are in negotiations to buy the collection, said UBC Department of Theatre and Film head Jerry Wasserman. The deal would split the collection between the two universities, he said.
“This is one of the largest collections of these kinds of materials anywhere,” he said. “There are scholars within both our department and SFU who are really interested in getting their hands on this collection.”
UBC expressed interest as soon as Videomatica said it was going out of business six months ago, Mr. Wasserman said, but the deal was too pricey for UBC alone. “There was bit of a roadblock and it was unblocked when Simon Fraser came on board as a potential partner,” he said.
The collection is being appraised and the universities hope to reach a deal by the end of the month, he said.
UBC is willing to make “a great financial sacrifice” out of its film budget, Mr. Wasserman said. He said UBC’s payment will be divided among the library, the Dean of Arts, and the Department of Theatre and Film.
Videomatica’s collection of films contains over a thousand VHS tapes that don’t exist in DVD format – or online.
“Everybody says, ‘Why are you buying this outmoded technology when you can just go to Netflix or whatever?’ But a lot of this material is one-of-a-kind, and Canadian films that have not ever been distributed in any way, other than small printings of the tapes or DVDs.”
Mr. Wasserman said the universities expect to pay more than $200,000 for the full collection.
But Brian Bosworth, who has been building the collection since he opened the store with Graham Peat in 1983, estimates it is worth between $350,000 and $850,000. Mr. Bosworth’s goal is to preserve the collection as a whole instead of selling it piece by piece to individual film fans, he said.
“It’s worth more as a collection,” he said. “We've been told it’s a collection of national and international importance.”
He said business has been slowing down since 2008, owing largely to online rentals. The store will close once the deal is confirmed, he said.
Mr. Bosworth said loyal customers have described the closure of the store as “a death in the family.” Video stores allow people to browse and find things they wouldn’t normally look for, he said.
“It’s kind of sad because customers won't know what they're missing,” he said. “If they don't find it online, then they won't know it exists.”
Videomatica launched a fundraising campaign in September that allows people to “sponsor” films to be placed in university libraries for $25.