Seattle’s iconic Scarecrow Video turns 30 and uses vast catalog to stay in the fight against streaming


A pair sits in entrance of a laptop computer. The lights are dim. They don’t need to go away the home. They scroll via streaming video companies, trying to find a film title. They have been certain it could be obtainable on-line. They’re dissatisfied. An argument ensues. The laptop computer closes.


Clients wander the aisles of a basic video retailer. Bodily copies of DVDs and tapes line the cabinets. Films play on TVs. A pair makes a variety. They embrace. “I can’t consider they’ve this,” the girl says.

– # – 

Writing a cheerful ending for a video retailer might be tougher than discovering one which’s nonetheless alive. And whereas there’s no assure that Scarecrow Video will stay on the scene eternally, 30 years of plot twists and turns have definitely made for a compelling saga.

The store on Roosevelt Manner in Seattle’s College District, which was established in 1988, is hoping to go one other three a long time, a minimum of. To assist in that effort, it turned a non-profit in 2014, turning to the group to assist it to shield a set of bodily media that’s unequalled wherever in the United States, with a loyal following of followers. Increasing past simply being one other selection in individuals’s leisure routines, the retailer is now devoted to being a cultural establishment.

Scarecrow is dwelling to greater than 131,000 titles, stocking every little thing from the most uncommon documentary on Noah’s Ark to this 12 months’s Oscar winner for finest image, “The Form of Water.” The VHS assortment alone numbers 15,000 tapes. The main streaming companies — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu — which have redefined how we eat motion pictures and TV reveals at dwelling with their subscription-based choices, have a mixed whole of about 35,000 titles.

“Now we have 1000’s and 1000’s of titles that may most likely by no means present up in any streaming service,” mentioned Matt Lynch, advertising coordinator at Scarecrow and a 15-year worker of the store. “We even have 1000’s of titles that in the event that they weren’t obtainable right here, they wouldn’t be obtainable ever once more. What we expect is essential is that individuals notice that we provide them much more selection than they’re getting by staying at dwelling. Whenever you watch what Netflix has, you’re letting two big companies promote one another the rights to make you watch that stuff and not a lot else.”

The late founder George Latsios began Scarecrow with an unique inventory of 600 tapes. As we speak, the store provides 3,000 to 5,000 titles annually. There are new releases, employees picks, spy flicks, conflict, horror, overseas, authorized, comedy, animated, sports activities, documentary, literary, classic sexploitation movies and a lot extra.

And Scarecrow desires entry to that library and how individuals take into consideration motion pictures to prolong past those that go to and lease. Staffers and volunteers ship movies and lectures to senior and group facilities, they host a youngsters’s hour the place households can participate in multimedia actions, and an in-house “theater” hosts screenings and occasions practically each evening which are free and open to the public. There’s additionally a need to work with educators extra to learn the way supplies can be utilized in school rooms and be integrated in faculty curriculums.

“It’s simply bringing individuals collectively round movie,” mentioned John O’Connor, improvement director at Scarecrow. “We wish to do extra and that’s what donations do for us. We wish to increase our outreach and create extra communities round this unimaginable assortment.”

Round the retailer, there are numerous posters and flyers encouraging of us to assist maintain Scarecrow alive via donations. However extra importantly, an bold funding drive is now underway, as Scarecrow appears to be like to increase $100,000. The month-old effort, visible on GoFundMe, has raised a couple of quarter of that quantity to date. Reward ranges vary from $10 — purchase a staffer a shot as a result of “it’s not straightforward trailblazing a path in the digital age!” — to $5,000 — get a whole 12 months of leases at no cost.

“It’s not a query of, ‘Let’s increase this cash one time and then we’ll be solvent,’” Lynch mentioned. “We’re it like PBS or KEXP. These establishments do fund drives twice a 12 months. There’s no motive why we shouldn’t be doing that. We’re a useful resource that’s precisely as priceless as these issues.”

Stepping off the avenue into the retailer does really feel like a visit again in time. Fast digital innovation has a method of creating it look like the not-so-distant previous was ages in the past. However many people can keep in mind having a video retailer membership not that way back, when a weekend signaled the want to seize a couple of leases.

However now on Netflix and Amazon and HBO and iTunes and Hulu and elsewhere, we binge complete seasons of reveals with out getting off the sofa. And there’s nothing incorrect with that, so far as Lynch is anxious. He loves a few of the content material that’s obtainable on Netflix — even mentioning a brand new collection he was tremendous excited to get into referred to as “Evil Genius.”

“We’re not saying that’s not a priceless service, we’re saying that’s a complement to one thing that’s a lot bigger,” Lynch mentioned. “I feel individuals have this phantasm that they’ll entry no matter they need by way of streaming, and they’ll’t. Netflix has finished a extremely glorious job of promoting the concept that they’ve all these things and you may get no matter you need, however you’ll be able to’t. You go on Netflix and you’ll be able to’t see ‘Jaws.’ All people thinks that, effectively, ‘Jaws’ is tremendous well-known so it’s gotta be on Netflix. No! It doesn’t work that method.”

“We have been looking at a few of the large movie lists, like AFI’s 100 Best American Films. Netflix has eight of these,” O’Connor mentioned. “Now we have all of them and we’ve got them in a number of codecs, some with actually cool bonus options that you just’re not going to see wherever, besides by visiting us.”

It’s that visiting half that’s the sticking level, whether or not you’re a movie fan on the different aspect of the planet or one in Seattle who doesn’t need to cross a number of neighborhoods in horrible site visitors simply to lease a film.

So what retains Scarecrow from making a rent-by-mail format or digitizing its vast catalog — one that may simply supplant the streaming giants?

The rarity of a few of the gadgets in the catalog makes Scarecrow weary of utilizing any type of mail service. Of the high 100 titles it deems its most uncommon, for example, 88 out of the 100 will not be even held by the Library of Congress. Netflix nonetheless mails DVDs with out a lot concern of shedding any as a result of they’ve 1000’s of copies of titles. If Scarecrow misplaced a uncommon title, that may be it. And tapes can’t sit in a sizzling mail truck, or they’ll be ruined.

“Logistically it’s extraordinarily troublesome and costly,” Lynch mentioned. “You even have to make mailers — we are able to’t afford to design and mass produce mailers. We’re simply us, we don’t have billions in VC funding.”

As for why the catalog isn’t streamed, Lynch mentioned to suppose for a second that that wouldn’t be wildly unlawful, which it could be. Creating the infrastructure to construct servers and maintain 131,000 titles on-line is a non-starter technically and financially talking. However so is the time and sources it could take.

“Simply the tapes — 15,000 tapes — let’s name these conservatively 80 minutes a tape,” Lynch mentioned. “You’ll be able to’t simply stick that in a machine and digitize, you’ve bought to sit via the tape. Eighty minutes instances 15,000. You then’ve bought to ensure that it’s OK, in order that’s twice. If we had only one individual doing it with no breaks, not even to eat or sleep, it could take 5 years to digitize simply the tapes. Who’s gonna pay any person to do this?”

Assorted rooms in the retailer providing quite a lot of genres create a maze-like impact. Aisles of multi-colored shelving are chock full to a reachable peak. Faux cobwebs are strung up in the horror part. Small playing cards with employees evaluations adorn assorted titles. Classic posters and film memorabilia and movie reference guides drive dwelling the level that this place is particular — like one thing out of … a film.

And for the quantity of stuff that’s on show, the store is awfully effectively saved. It has to be when area is at such a premium. After they do run out of room, binders filled with DVD title sleeves are employed so prospects can thumb via them. There are 8,000 copies of sports-related motion pictures and documentaries displayed this fashion.

“We continually battle with area,” Lynch mentioned. “We’ve had to get inventive with getting as a lot stuff into as little area as attainable.”

However shifting to an even bigger location is just about out of the query.

“If we’re gone for per week or we’re gone for a month, individuals would possibly suppose we’re gone eternally,” Lynch mentioned. “I can’t inform you what number of instances I run into individuals in my common life which are like, ‘Oh, you’re employed at Scarecrow? I heard they closed.’”

He laughed.

“We simply didn’t.”

Dan Hickey is simply the type of movie fan Scarecrow will want extra of to survive and thrive. The 47-year-old tech employee, who lives in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, mentioned he fell in love with Scarecrow from the second he set foot in it 25 years in the past, and he nonetheless visits all the time.

On a current Friday afternoon he was wandering round with a replica of “Star Crash,” a 1978 Roger Corman cult basic.

“Each two or three weeks I get along with two pals I’ve identified since faculty,” Hickey mentioned. “We do both cult or so-bad-they’re-good movies. Now we have an enormous checklist; most of them you’ll be able to solely get right here. Stumbling throughout stuff simply by yourself is simpler and rather more enjoyable to do right here than on-line.”

He mentioned his household does subscribe to Netflix and a cable TV package deal that features HBO. However he doesn’t suppose the service competes with Scarecrow. His 17-year-old son can be a film nut and filmmaker and Hickey deliberate to make an $80 donation to Scarecrow’s funding drive — a pledge that may enable the teen to curate his personal shelf of suggestions in the store.

“It’s essential for me to help a spot like this, so I bought out of my method to come right here even when [the movie] is on-line,” Hickey mentioned. “And I inform all people about all of it the time. I encourage them to come.”

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please stop the adblocker for your browser to view this page.