Film Is Truth
10:51 am
Fri December 6, 2013

Will Scarecrow Video's 25th Birthday Be The Last?

A Seattle institution: Scarecrow Video on Roosevelt Way in the University District.
Credit KUOW Photo/Ross Reynolds

Scarecrow Video, Seattle’s largest video rental store, has an animation room. It has French comedies from the 1960s that aren’t even available in France. It has rows of films listed by obscure directors and the entire DVD box set of thirtysomething (which, upon reflection, perhaps it shouldn’t).

This weekend (Dec. 6-8), the store celebrates its 25th birthday. But hanging over that celebration is the somber reality that this may be the store’s last birthday.

The view inside Scarecrow Video from its second story, wraparound balcony area.
Credit KUOW Photo/Ross Reynolds

For two months, the video store’s owners, Mickey McDonough and Carl Tostevin, have said this season may decide whether their doors stay open.

The store hasn’t been able to support itself for some time. Tostevin and McDonough don’t take a salary and the operating costs come out of their pocket. The staff is also so deeply invested in Scarecrow that they asked to not have pay raises to keep the doors open.

When Tostevin and McDonough bought Scarecrow in 1998, the store was in heavy competition with big video chain stores like Blockbuster. Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and recently announced it would close its remaining stores, but there are new challenges from TV and video streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and cheap DVD rental businesses like Red Box.

Yes, Scarecrow even has a massive opera collection.
Credit KUOW Photo/Ross Reynolds

Tostevin said it’s hard for a brick-and-mortar store to get customers in the door, not to mention convince them to return the rentals.

Early next year, they’ll examine whether business went better during the holiday season. If not, they will consider other options, including downsizing the store, becoming a non-profit or affiliating with a like-minded organization.

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