Seattle’s Scarecrow Video, arguably the greatest video story in the known universe, has been holding out against the changing habits of film viewing due to the onslaught of streaming video and digital distribution.
Today, Scarecrow announced The Scarecrow Project, which will transition the business to a non-profit organization. It’s the next step in preserving the amazing collection of movies on Blu-ray, DVD, laserdisc, and VHS: the largest single collection of physical home video in the United States, including thousands of movies and other programs no longer available in any format.
The project was initiated by the employees themselves, led by Joel Fisher and Kate Barr, who are going forward with the help of local and national advisers, including Tim League, the founder and CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse.
I myself worked at Scarecrow back in its glory days of the 1990s, where I was a manager on the inventory team during the launch of DVD and the bankruptcy of the store under its original owner, George Latsiois. Scarecrow has weathered a lot of changes and come through them all thanks to the commitment of its employees and its owners, who have always seen the film as more than simply a business. The current owners, Carl Tostevin and Mickey McDonough, have kept the store running despite falling rentals and sales. They now hand the reigns over to the next generation.
Go to The Scarecrow Project on Kickstarter for more information and to support the project.
The complete press release is printed below.
See also Moira Macdonald’s story for The Seattle Times and my feature on the future of the independent video store for Indiewire.
Scarecrow Video Announces Plans To Save
The World’s Largest Independent Movie Library
“The Scarecrow Project” Non-Profit Launches On Kickstarter
Seattle, WA – August 12, 2014 – Scarecrow Video, the venerated Seattle-based video store, is donating its library to a non-profit collective in an effort to preserve the world’s largest “home video” collection of film and television with over 120,000 VHS, laserdiscs, VCDs, DVDs and Blu-ray titles.The Scarecrow Project has launched a Kickstarter campaign to aid in the creation of the non-profit, ensuring this collection’s survival, which includes many rare titles and some titles that are the only known copies in existence outside of private ownership. The public’s support is needed to make this transition to non-profit with a donation here.
The transition of the video store to streaming & vending machine services has been chronicled widely, but the creation of The Scarecrow Project will ensure the security of Scarecrow Video by creating a non-profit to administer the vast collection, operate the organization and acquire new films. The Scarecrow Project joins the ranks of esteemed institutions like The American Film Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, The Film Foundation, American Genre Film Archive, and The Film Noir Foundation with a commitment to preserving film history.
“Preserving this library means an enormous wealth of film history remains available for public consumption. Accessibility of this collection strikes at the heart of the home video ethos – put the movie selection experience in the hands of the many instead of the few. It is not our job to decide what movies or television shows people should watch. We simply want to make as much available as possible so that current and future generations get to fall in love with them again and again,” said The Scarecrow Project Co-Founder Kate Barr.
“Scarecrow Video is a treasure that we just can’t lose. I travel the world, and it’s the most comprehensive video store I’ve ever seen,” said Academy Award-winning film editor Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, The Aviator, The Departed) and film preservationist.
Alamo Drafthouse CEO/Founder Tim League said, “Scarecrow Video is one of if not THE most important archive of our movie heritage. It is also the most vulnerable. It is our duty and obligation as movie fans to support their mission and help them evolve, strengthen and grow. A future without Scarecrow Video is an apocalyptic wasteland. Do your part.”
The Scarecrow Project will go beyond the continued operation of the video store to save the thousands of films that will never make the transition to digital and streaming media. With the explosion of home video in the 1980s came the birth of the direct-to-video industry. Countless direct-to-video films have never been released as 16mm or 35mm prints. Thousands of these films never made the jump to DVD, and continue to be overlooked during the digital migration. Furthermore, the collection includes films that have never been released in any format in the US. Scarecrow keeps these nearly lost classics alive and available to viewers. Funds from this Kickstarter will allow the continued preservation of these titles, while actively expanding the collection by seeking out other titles available in physical media that have been deemed to have a historical or cultural value. A donation on Kickstarter is not life support for a dying dream, but rather an investment in the future of physical media in film history. Read more about The Scarecrow Project’s mission goals here.
To get involved in The Scarecrow Project and donate to the Kickstarter campaign, please visit the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/644154729/the-scarecrow-project
From its passionate founder George Latsios to its current owners Carl Tostevin and Mickey McDonough, Scarecrow Videos has existed with the sole mission of bringing people and film together. Sitting near the corner of 50th and Roosevelt, what IFC calls the “Best Film Corner in America,” Scarecrow Video has been the go-to place for film lovers in Seattle since 1998. Over the last 25 years it has grown from a personal collection of 600 videotapes to become the largest single collection in the world. The Scarecrow Project (aka SV Archive), a non-profit organization in the process of obtaining its 501(c)(3) status, has been formed with the singular purpose of protecting this invaluable collection while guiding its course through the 21st century. Combining the talents of long-term Scarecrow employees, our organization boasts the most intimate knowledge of this library as well as the know-how for managing it. There is no other group better suited or better placed to grow the collection while still making it available to the general public. The Scarecrow Project board members include:
Kate Barr works as the Outreach Coordinator for Scarecrow Video and is one of the founding members of The Scarecrow Project.
Joel Fisher is the Assistant Inventory Manager at Scarecrow Video and one of the founding members of The Scarecrow Project.
Zack Carlson is an all-around cinephile – producer, Fantastic Fest programmer, founder of Bleeding Skull Video, former Alamo Drafthouse programmer, author of Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film, and VHS collector.
Daniel Herbert, Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan, is a scholar of media culture with particular interests in media industries, geography, and cultural identities. His most recent book Videoland examines the ways that video rental stores altered movie culture from the 1970s through the 2000s.
Robert Horton has been a film critic in Seattle for about 30 years, yet he mysteriously retains the blush of youth. He writes on film for The Herald (Everett, Washington) and Seattle Weekly and is a regular contributor to Film Comment and other magazines.
Tim League is the founder and CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse, which includes the theaters, Drathouse Films, Fantastic Fest, Mondo and Badass Digest.