World-famous Scarecrow Video could soon close its doors

SEATTLE -- Seattle's Scarecrow Video is known by film buffs around the world as having perhaps the largest collection of movies and TV shows for rent.

The business has seen competitors like Blockbuster Video come and go, but its owners are now facing what might be their final battle.

For decades, serious movie fans have known that when all else fails, Scarecrow will likely have the movie they're looking for. But that could all change unless more people are willing to drive to the U-District store to rent their movies.

"Best guess is we have 120,000 titles," said Scarecrow general manager Kevin Shannon. "We don't think that collection is matched anywhere in the country, let alone the western hemisphere and possibly the world."

The vast collection has just about every film or TV show you can imagine, but the business has lost a large chunk of customers to Redbox and various streaming sites, such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

"It's what's harming us," said inventory manager Anissa Bower. "We are a library and I really feel we are vital to this community."

Over the last six years, Scarecrow's rental numbers have dropped 40 percent, and store officials say this holiday season could be make-or-break for the business.

"If a third of our customers came twice as often as they currently do, it would pull us out, it would pull us out of trouble," Shannon said.

Die-hard customers like John Jacobson, who's the co-founder of The Film School, hope more people like him show up in the coming months. He says many of the titles at Scarecrow aren't available anywhere else.

"You can't find them anyplace," he said. "It's like this last great bastion of everything every made."

Scarecrow may have the largest collection of Warner Brothers movies outside of the studio itself. But unless more people start renting, the 120,000 titles may soon go away.

Owners would love to offer a streaming service, but they don't have the rights to do so. If all else fails, the store may turn into a non-profit and create a subscription-based system.