Scarecrow in Seattle Might Be the Last Great Video Store. Can It Survive?


Consider Quentin Tarantino, who learned movie history as a video store clerk himself in the 1980s. Once video stores were the only place cinephiles could find favorite films after they left theaters. Then came the internet. The rise of online streaming services was a convenience for movie lovers, but it spelled, too, the end of an era. Last month, Blockbuster, which used to operate 9,000 stores, announced that only one remained, in Bend, Ore.

As for Scarecrow, it survived bankruptcy, the threat of closing and the death of its charismatic founder. In 2014, it became a nonprofit. And now, with more than 132,000 titles — many on VHS, laser disc and DVD — it is as much a cultural warehouse as anything else.

And that gives Kate Barr, Scarecrow’s president, pause. Film lovers today have access to a prescribed number of movies on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, and other niche channels. Old treasures — many of which are unavailable online because of rights issues or technological hurdles — are being locked away, forgotten or even destroyed.

Of Scarecrow, Ms. Barr said, “We will fight to the death to keep this open.”

Sure, most people no longer want to trudge to the video store on a Friday night, as they once did in droves. Streaming movies are available through on-demand cable, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and many other sources. But the emphasis tends to be on current titles, or TV series. Netflix, which pioneered renting DVDs by mail and streaming, has been moving steadily into original programming, for example.



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