Like the drive-in, video stores are an institution beloved by movie nerds but abandoned by the general population, who would rather watch movies on their phones like a bunch of apes than engage in a lively, well-reasoned debate on the merits of Friday The 13th Part III versus Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter with their fellow man. This cultural shortcoming has led to the closure of many once-iconic stores, most recently Kim’s Video in New York City. But Scarecrow Video, Seattle’s temple of home video with over 120,000 individual titles in its collection and its own video guide, refuses to go quietly.
Scarecrow owners Carl Tostevin and Mickey McDonough first petitioned the public for help last October, when they revealed that the store was in serious danger of closing after rentals dropped 40 percent over the past six years. Their plea led to a brief bump in customers, but according to The Seattle Times, by January revenue had declined to its previous, pre-begging levels.
Now Scarecrow is taking a different approach, joining with Seattle’s Grand Illusion Cinema as it transitions from for-profit video store into nonprofit video archive. High-profile patrons like the Alamo Drafthouse’s Tim League—a name often associated with preservation efforts like these—will serve as board members at the new, nonprofit Scarecrow Video, which will expand its free Scarecrow Screening Room film programming and offer memberships and volunteer opportunities for local cinephiles.
Scarecrow hopes to fund the transition through a Kickstarter campaign launched earlier today; the campaign has a goal of $100,000 and offers donors the opportunity to curate their own shelf in the store, “sponsor” a title on Scarecrow’s shelves, or, for the big spenders, have the Scarecrow staff introduce a screening in the comfort of your home.
But why should cinephiles outside of Seattle care about the survival of a video store, as awesome as its collection may be? Because, as Scarecrow’s Kickstarter video points out, Netflix libraries come and go, but a physical copy is forever (or at least until some asshole decides to use it as a coaster). And in a vast library like Scarecrow’s, there are more than a handful of titles literally not available to the public anywhere else, making the store’s survival important on a cultural preservation level. (Also, video store tourism is vastly underrated.) So go forth, nerds, and ensure that there’s somebody out there who still makes a living rolling their eyes at people who rent Adam Sandler movies.