Even if you’re just stopping by the city for a couple of days, one of the most interesting, diverse places you can visit is Scarecrow Video in the University District, on Roosevelt off of 52nd. The “world’s largest video store” is a testament to all things film lovers.
Upon first entering you’ll find the outside windows littered with posters and advertisements for the upcoming films and festivals in the area (of which there are many). The inside wall is lined with films for sale and if you turn around an entire alcove is devoted to old movies being sold. The counter is as long as the store and in glass cases you’ll find old rare films, Criterion DVDs and behind them all shelves full of imports and rarities.
Now it’s time to look at the collection. The bottom floor consists of three things. You’ve got a wall that wraps around the entire bottom floor filled with world cinema offerings separated alphabetically by country. From Algeria to Korea, Britain to South Africa, if a country’s made a film, it’s probably on that wall. On the other side of that wall is a zig zag labyrinth of director’s alphabetically separated and given their own space if they’ve become eponymous enough to deserve it. The greats of world cinema, shock cinema, and just plain Hollywood gold line these shelves with every offering a given director has ever made (if it’s possible to own it).
The corners are filled with new releases, thousands of new releases which include the actual new releases out hollywood as well as any new film they’ve just imported from another country, television shows fresh to DVD or an old film just now being released. The possibilities are endless and I’ve spent more than a couple hours just looking through the new releases, which are shuffled out and reset weekly as every week sees a huge chunk of new films coming in.
Upstairs is your genre rooms. Adventure, Action, Comedy – the usuals are there. But you’ll also find literary adaptations for all you Shakespeare buffs, an entire alcove of music on film, with rock operas, actual operas and video collections. There’s an animation room, mostly filled with anime, as well as some world wide offerings from other master animators. There’s a science fiction and horror section chock full of the old films you never thought you’d find on dvd, and in the far corner even a fairly well stocked adults only section.
Scarecrow boasts over 60,000 titles in their catalog, and I wonder if it’s much bigger than that, though there’s absolutely no room left in that building to house any more movies. It’s literally bursting at the seams, and if you’re even a casual movie fan, you owe it to yourself to stop in and see a collection that world famous directors have stood in awe of.