Arts Desk

Alexandria’s Video Vault, Beloved Home of Cinema’s Worst, Closes Friday

UPDATE | April 28, 11:37 a.m.: I just spoke with owner Jim McCabe. The store's landlord wants the space vacated by this weekend, so the shop will close after today. McCabe says the store still has 30-40,000 of the 60,000 titles it once sported, which he'll sell on the Video Vault website. He's not sure what he'll do next. "I’ve just been so busy selling the inventory that I haven’t figured it out," he says. "It’s kind of a weird feeling after 25 years—kind of sad, and at the same time I'm glad to get out of this building and the karma." He reminded me that the store's downfall began when it moved to its current location on S. Columbus Street, which only has street parking. "I’m just sick having to ride around the block 20 times myself."

Original post below:

Video Vault, the beloved Alexandria store that for 25 years has been the Valhalla of D.C.'s weirdo cinephiles, is closing Friday. Last month, when owner Jim McCabe announced his store's imminent demise, I reported a little bit on the Vault's history and why it closed: McCabe, a psychologist who was a political appointee early on in the Reagan administration, opened the store in 1985 with his wife Jane, and they eventually acquired a collection of 65,000 titles. The store shuffled through several Old Town Alexandria locations—and briefly expanded to a second Georgetown location—before landing in its current spot, a basement space on S. Columbus Street.

It was that move—and the fact that the store no longer had abundant parking, as it did when it was located in a large house on Washington Street—along with high rent that eventually spelled an end for the business, McCabe told me last month. The store specialized in cult and foreign movies—its slogan was "Guaranteed Worst Movies In Town"—and counted Joey Ramone and cult filmmaker Jeff Krulik among its customers.

Another was Carl Cephas, who leads the Washington Psychotronic Film Society and whose suspension from the Library of Congress was chronicled on Arts Desk last fall. For years, the Psychotronic Film Society rented the z-movies it screens each week from Video Vault. Cephas, who was finally fired from the Library of Congress in December but is still appealing the decision, stopped by the store for the last time recently.

"I should've spent my last $100 on Oddles of Noodles," he said today. "But instead I picked up some DVDs at Video Vault."

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