Just near the corner of 50th and Roosevelt Way in Seattle sits a national treasure – Scarecrow Video. IFC dubbed the intersection the “Best Film Corner in America” and the late Roger Ebert called Scarecrow a “social center” for “the curious, the adventurous and the obsessed movie buffs.” Part film archive, part gathering place, Scarecrow is one of the country’s largest independent video stores and has been a local institution since the eighties. The video store has more than 120,000 individual titles for rent – some so rare you’ll have to leave your firstborn child as a deposit to check them out.
Scarecrow Video celebrated their 25th Anniversary last December, but the milestone was somewhat overshadowed by a significant amount of disheartening press. Scarecrow is facing the very real challenges of maintaining a brick-and-mortar operation in a digital and On Demand age. But their struggle is not unique, across the world the once-lauded vastness of titles available in stores is being shirked for the convenience of picking something to watch with your mouse, or remote, or your finger.
Scarecrow has a plan to rally and remain relevant. Part of the strategy involves sharing the story of what a tremendous community resource they are, from the volume of their holdings, to the knowledgeable cinephile staff, to the exclusivity of available titles. In addition to DVD and Blu-ray rentals they also offer more specialized “retro” rental options like VHS and laserdisc. “The good, the bad, the innovative, the unexpected – Scarecrow has all of this in our vast archive, and so very much more,” says Kate Barr, who works with the store to do community outreach.
The other part of the plan is to remind local filmmakers and cinema-lovers that Scarecrow is the social center that Ebert so wisely observed. The central theory is that if people have a reason to make the trip to Scarecrow, they will linger, rent, and be reminded of the satisfying tradition of returning home with something you actually want to watch. This is the antithesis of the increasingly infuriating experience many users report with online streaming or VOD options. The Onion recently satirized this phenomenon by announcing a fictional Netflix plan called “Browse Endlessly,” which skewered the annoyance of searching instant titles, only to settle on something less than ideal out of sheer exhaustion.
Scarecrow Video has strategically added some important features to their vast arsenal of reasons to head there, including VHSpresso, an in-store coffee kiosk, which also offers a selection of beers, snacks, and other refreshments. When properly hydrated and caffeinated, cinema lovers can get the maximum enjoyment from their power browsing. Scarecrow is also doing a lot of work to spread the word about their Screening Room, a space available to professionals and amateur film curators alike.
To get an idea of what goes on in the Screening Room, Washington Filmworks attended a screening of Pacific Aggression, a new feature from Seattle filmmaker Shaun Scott. The film explores our modern day relationship with social-media, so in fitting form an audience was invited to gather at Scarecrow, watch the fine cut of the movie, and live tweet the observations inspired. Fans and supporters packed the space to watch and participate, but several remained after, to browse Scarecrow’s collection and rent something wonderful.
It’s not just local films that are being shown. Scarecrow offers their Screening Room for in-store appearances, DVD signings, private parties, and programming from partnering organizations and community members. Those who book the space can even curate titles from Scarecrow’s massive collection. This past month Scarecrow hosted everything from trivia, to Women on Punk, to a Troma Tribute Weekend, complete with an appearance from Lloyd Kauffman. Just take a look at their April calendar to get your mind around the delightful variety of unique events that can, and do, happen at Scarecrow Video.
Interested in the Scarecrow Video Screening Room? Check out the Scarecrow Rental Rates Flyer or contact Kate Barr, firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.