To say that Seattle’s Scarecrow Video is an institution is an understatement. Opened in 1988, one of the city’s last remaining video stores stocks 120,000 titles.
“We’re pretty confident that puts us at the biggest collection of videos in the world,” said ten year Scarecrow veteran employee, Matt Lynch.
Known for both popular and super rare titles, Scarecrow categorizes its films into very specific categories.
“Here’s one of my favorite sections, the Juvenile Delinquent section. It’s a lot of stuff from the 50’s, like kids who smoke too much reefer and end up in juvie. Here are the blaxploitation movies. Here’s a section called Rednecks. Little Bastards, which is one of my favorites because it’s like anything small that wants to kill you. Killer babies, stuff like that.”
Unfortunately, like video stores everywhere in our country, Scarecrow is hurting for business.
“Over the last six years, or so, we’ve experienced a pretty sharp decline in rentals. About a 40 percent drop in rentals, which is pretty significant.”
The reason is simple and probably pretty obvious at this point.
“It’s mostly because people have stopped coming in and the reason for that is mostly because they feel they can get everything we offer them online. They can get a chunk of what we offer them online but they can’t get everything. Netflix is a great service, they offer a lot of interesting stuff. We probably have three times what they offer. It’s very convenient to be able to not have to leave your house and come and return a movie. It’s mostly sort of a convenience trap. I think people have gotten complacent and decided that this is easier. Why go look for something that you want when you can just watch whatever they’ve got?”
A couple of months ago Scarecrow wrote an open letter to the community, letting them know they’re at risk for closure.
“People didn’t really realize that the situation had gotten to that point. You know, a lot of people only come in here on Wednesdays, which is our busy day, and they see a line at the counter and they think we’re thriving. We’re not. I think we really needed people to understand that we needed the community support. We hear all the time from people saying, ‘Oh, Scarecrow is so great!’ And you’re like, ‘Well, when is the last time you came in?’ ‘Fifteen years ago!’ Well if Scarecrow is so great, come in. We love all of our customers.”
Matt understands that the rental industry is dying, so Scarecrow is looking into other options for bringing people in. Things like showing movies and bringing in directors. But he urges anyone who cares about Scarecrow to actually come in and rent something. Otherwise, it will disappear.
“I love this place, it’s my church. This is my favorite place in the world. Not a lot of people would work at a video store, for not a lot of money, for a decade of their life. I just turned 35 but I work here because I love this place. I think that the collection is valuable, not just as a movie fan but culturally I think it’s important. A lot of this stuff, if it gets broken up, or if it disappears, that would be a tragedy. There is going to be stuff, if that happens, that no one will ever see again. And that will be terrible.”