by Eliot Mueting
Walking through the doors of Scarecrow Video is pretty impressive, you've got to see it to believe it, a recent account of a father and son walking into the Roosevelt Way storefront for the first time only to have the young child pause in the door way, gaze up and down the vast interior of the space and exclaim "Dad! it is a movie castle!" describes the feeling best.
The sights of Scarecrow Video are awe inspiring and they can only be found in the U District.
Founded in 1988 Scarecrow video now holds claim to over 128,000 unique titles one of the largest collections of its kind. In 2014 the changes in technology that have shifted the market place for video rentals has lead to the reconfiguration of Scarecrow Video to a Non-Profit entity with a mission to:
" Scarecrow Video is dedicated to championing the indispensable role of film arts in community, cultural, and civic life
We are committed to: building film literacy, ensuring full public access to the largest privately held video and physical media archive in the United States, advancing cultural and educational enrichment through community-based programming, and supporting the arts capacity of civic groups, educational institutions, and nonprofits in the Puget Sound area."
U District Partnership staff sat down with Scarecrow's Kate Barr to discuss the past present and future of the movie mecca.
Scarecrow does not aim to compete with services like Netflix (even though Netflix's streaming library in North America is roughly 1/20th of the size of Scarecrow's) and Kate suggests that there is plenty of room for the both to exists and continue to provide access to movies to people everywhere. However the proliferation of online streaming services paired with the importance of the physical collection and the strength of community that Scarecrow maintains has made the transition into a non-profit inevitable.
Now the work of Scarecrow has become growing their community by communicating the importance of Scarecrow to the world at large. While looking for new ways to ensure that the collection can continue on and provide the breadth of perspective and variety of stories being told. Without Scarecrow what happens to the over 15,000 VHS titles they still keep because they never made the jump to DVD or onto popular streaming services.
"What doesn't get watched and what does and who is making the decisions on what we get to watch?"
Asks Barr while articulating the message of why Scarecrow ought to be supported, preserved and cherished.
One avenue Scarecrow has identified as a way to get their message out there is through educational programs. Scarecrow now boasts programs that include:
Senior center outreach showing films and facilitating the post showing discussion.
Children's hour at the U District Library drawing kids into a film and engaging them on themes.
Producing videos with in house Scarecrow editing team to create clips under 10 minutes long exploring topics like Special Effects in Film vs Trends in Technology and Science Fiction.
Due to the critical importance of story telling to our cultural history Scarecrow is hoping to grow and expand these programs. The collection Scarecrow holds is an amazing resource and they are constantly looking for ways to exploit it.
For more information check out Scarecrow's website and if you have never been to the Movie Castle yourself you ought to stop on by.