Located in Seattle, Scarecrow Video bills itself as one of the world’s largest and most diverse video collections with over 145,000 titles, including rare and out-of-print titles that can’t even be found in the Library of Congress. Which is great if you live in Seattle, but where does that leave the rest of us? With their newly revamped website, Scarecrow Video now offers video rentals by mail. You know, like Netflix did back in the red envelope heydays (which officially come to an end on September 29).
Renting a standard DVD or Blu-ray for seven days will cost you $4.50, while new releases cost $3.00 for four days. You can rent up to six discs at a time, and shipping and handling costs $12.00 for round-trip postage and a pre-paid return envelope (More pricing info here.) There are some limitations — rare and irreplaceable videos aren’t available for rent by mail, nor are VHS and laser disc releases or adult titles — but that still leaves a lot to choose from, including Japanese sci-fi TV series, Blaxploitation movies, experimental filmmakers, and countless documentaries. In other words, stuff you’d probably never find on Netflix, Amazon Prime, et al.
Paying $15+ to rent a single Blu-ray or DVD may be on the pricey side. But it’s a viable option for cineastes who want to watch titles that are increasingly unavailable on streaming services. Case in point, Keith Phipps recently lamented the lack of classic Looney Tunes shorts on Max despite it being owned by Warner Bros. Discovery:
It’s a sorry situation, especially since HBO Max premiered with a generous selection of Looney Tunes shorts arranged in “seasons” that provided some sort of order. The removal of half that initial selection, despite the company currently known as Warner Bros. Discovery owning the material, seems to be the result of one of those intracompany deals that makes sense on spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations but looks like chaos at best and a rip-off at worst to the shortchanged consumers who are suddenly getting less than they paid for. That the rebranded Max lost 1.8 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2023 alone probably can’t be directly attributed to the removal of “Lumber Jerks” and “Putty Tat Trouble,” but the Looney Tunes purge is symptomatic of a larger issue.
A quick perusal of Scarecrow Video’s catalog, however, reveals numerous Looney Tunes collections available for rent. (Looney Tunes collections can also be purchased relatively cheaply, on DVD anyway, so it might not make the most sense to rent them from Scarecrow Video, but you get the idea.)
Of course, Scarecrow Video’s new rental service isn’t a major threat to the likes of Netflix and Max. But it does prove the reliability of physical media, which isn’t subject to the whims of executives who are more concerned with keeping shareholders happy than ensuring reliable access to the art and culture that’s in their hands.