Alamo Drafthouse Makes Deal to Preserve Titles From Vast Le Video Collection

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At one time San Francisco's Le Video could arguably be hailed as the world's best video store. That argument -- if anyone was still having it -- ended last month, because Le Video went out of business.

Among the ever-diminishing coterie of cinephiles who still depend solely on physical media for their narrative needs, this was a sad event. Only a handful of video stores remain in the city. Actually, more like a clawful -- it's down to like three.

One of the issues around Le Video's demise was what would happen to its insanely vast collection of roughly 90,000 titles. The store's owner, Catherine Tchen, has been in prolonged negotiations with Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League to buy its inventory and keep it intact. Otherwise, Tchen said, she would have to sell it off piecemeal to collectors and the public.

Tchen said several times over the past few months that she thought the Alamo deal was dead, even telling me in October the announcement was imminent that Le Video renters would soon get first crack at buying up its titles.

But 11th-hour negotiations ensued, apparently. Today, Alamo announced that it, along with Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures, was providing access to "portions" of the Le Video archive. Alamo said it would partner with another struggling San Francisco video store, Lost Weekend, to rent the Le Video titles, along with some from Lost Weekend as well. Those films will be available at the new Alamo Drafthouse, which opens in the Mission on Dec. 17 with a showing of the latest "Star Wars" movie.

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"Despite the fact that great video stores like Le Video are closing all over the country, I am confident that a new iteration of the video store experience can exist, and even thrive today," said League in a press release. "A passionate video store clerk can do what no algorithm can. They can recommend your new favorite movie, one that can't be predicted from your past viewing habits."

This post was updated to reflect Annapurna Pictures' involvement in the deal.