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Are people still buying DVDs from the Warner Archives?


HollywoodGolightly
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I just received my most recent order of Archive DVDs from the WB Shop. The items shipped in less than a week.

 

I've bought 11 of the Archive titles so far (I especially love those lesser-known 1930s Warners musicals like "Colleen" and "Shipmates Forever") and hope they continue to release more. Right now there are 14 titles on my "wish" list, all originally released by Warners or RKO, including "The Last Flight," "I Married a Doctor," "Night Song," "Give Me Your Heart," "She's Working Her Way through College" and "The Girl Most Likely."

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I'm definitely with those that would like to see more value paks or other discounts being made available! :D

 

Incidentally, there is a bunch of new titles that is now available to order (added today):

 

*Badlanders, The*

*Best of the Badmen*

*Confessions of a Nazi Spy*

*Fastest Gun Alive, The*

*Gabriel over the White House*

*Gold of the Seven Saints*

*Iron Mistress*

*Look for the Silver Lining*

*Master Race, The*

*Mission To Moscow*

*Mortal Storm, The*

*Rancho Notorious*

*Robert Benchley Shorts* (3 DVD Set)

*Rounders, The*

*The Sheepman*

*They Won't Forget* (1937)

*Tribute To A Bad Man*

*Whipsaw* (1935)

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Just in case anyone's interested, there's a pretty good sale right now at WBShop, called "Stars of GONE WITH THE WIND" that lets you choose from a list of 29 titles and get 5 DVDs for $49.95.

 

The promotion is sort of a tie-in to the Gone with the Wind release, since a star from that movie also appears in all of the eligible titles:

 

*Betrayed*

*Cain And Mabel*

*Call It A Day*

*Chained*

*Comrade X*

*Dance Fools Dance*

*Forsaking All Others*

*Four's A Crowd*

*Great Garrick*

*Hard To Get*

*Homecoming*

***** Tonk*

*Idiot's Delight*

*It's Love I'm After*

*Laughing Sinners*

*Love On The Run*

*Mad Miss Manton*

*Male Animal*

*Men In White*

*Out Of The Fog*

*Possessed*

*Princess O'Rourke*

*Shining Hour*

*Shopworn Angel*

*Singing Kid*

*Somewhere I'll Find You*

*Strange Interlude*

*Strawberry Blonde*

*Too Hot To Handle*

 

http://www.wbshop.com/Stars-of-Gone-With-the-Wind---Choose-Any-5-Films-for-%2449.95/STARSGWTW,default,sc.html

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  • 4 weeks later...

Just found this interesting interview with WHV Senior VP for marketing, George Feltenstein:

 

http://blogs.commercialappeal.com/the_bloodshot_eye/2009/12/warner.html

 

*The Warner Archive Collection: Hundreds of Classic Movies, Made to Order - Warner Honcho George Feltenstein Discusses the Company's Latest Home Video Innovation*

 

By John Beifuss on December 15, 2009 2:30 PM

 

Mother of mercy -- is this the end of classic-era Hollywood moves on remastered, bonus-packed, high-quality DVDs?

 

That paraphrase of Edward G. Robinson's dying lament at the end of "Little Caesar" perhaps sums up some of the more extreme reaction to Warner Home Video's launch earlier this year of the "Warner Archive Collection," a new method of bringing vintage films from the Warner Bros., RKO and MGM vaults to fans and collectors in manufactured-on-demand editions.

 

A Golden Age-of-Hollywood devotee with a less pessimistic nature, however, might respond to the Warner Archive initiative with the words of Scarlett O'Hara: "I'll never go hungry again" -- not with new-to-disc titles from the silent era through the early 1980s being made available at the rate of at least 20 per month.

 

Launched in March with a menu of 150 movies that since has grown to some 400 titles, the Warner Archive Collection has been perhaps the hot topic of 2009 for classic-movie fans. (And since it's now December, we might point out that it's a good source of holiday gift ideas for film enthusiasts.)

 

According to Warner Home Video's George Feltenstein, the senior vice president for marketing in charge of the company's back catalog, the archive is a dream come true for fans. Through the Archive Collection, Warner Bros. is able to make movies available that might never have been offered for sale through retail vendors, due to the high cost of remastering, production and promotion -- and due to the fact that DVD sales have been slipping, especially for old movies.

 

The range of titles -- including masterpieces, obscurities, oddities, long-sought cult favorites, overlooked gems, short subjects, TV movies, miniseries and more, from the silent era through the 1990s -- is fairly astonishing.

 

The lineup includes six early Joan Crawford-Clark Gable co-starrers; the "Wizard of Oz"-inspired "Under the Rainbow," with Chevy Chase and Carrie Fisher; the camp favorite "From Hell It Came," about a walking tree-monster; "Doc Savage," a 1975 adventure film starring Ron Ely as the pulp hero that has been an Archive best-seller; the rarely seen MGM "Our Gang" shorts of the 1940s; two Gene Roddenberry post-"Star Trek" TV productions from the 1970s, "Genesis II" and "Planet Earth"; and the post-Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan adventures of Lex Barker and Gordon Scott, to name a very few.

 

Also available for the first time are films with such great stars as Greta Garbo, James Cagney Katherine Hepburn and Edward G. Robinson, and movies by such significant directors as Howard Hawks, William Wellman, Robert Altman and Brian De Palma.

 

"This was intended to give people access to our vaults," said Feltenstein, in a telephone interview. "These are great movies... This is a way to get the product out to people who want it."

 

Feltenstein said the Archive initiative is "really a boon for film fans... Overall response has been overwhelmingly positive."

 

Like a pizza, the discs are made to order, and can be purchased directly via the Warner Archive link found at wbshop.com, the online Warner Bros. Studios store. (Movies also can be purchased for digital download.)

 

The Warner Archive movies are "burned" to recordable discs (DVD-R's) rather than being "stamped" onto the top-quality DVD's sold in stores. According to the Warner Archive Web site: "DVDs produced on-demand are similar to, but not quite [the] same as, DVDs you'd buy at the local video store. DVD movies you buy at the local video outlet are manufactured from a mold via a stamping process whereas on-demand DVDs are 'burned.' Each carries information read by the DVD player, but the physical properties of the two are different."

 

Another caveat: Each available movie on the Warner Archive site is accompanied by an "Important Note" stating that the film "has been manufactured from the best-quality video master currently available and has not been remastered or restored specifically for this DVD and Digital Download release."

 

The discs are packaged in a basic but not unattractive snapcase, with a distinctive Warner Archive look. A few of the movies are accompanied by trailers, but most contain nothing but the movie (and a Warner Archive promo commercial). The discs sell for $19.95 each; downloads are $14.95.

 

So, the good news is that hundreds of films that otherwise might be languishing in the Warner vault are now available. The bad news -- for fans spoiled by the past decade's glut of special edition classic DVDs -- is that the discs aren't remastered, contain no bonuses and are relatively expensive.

 

For example, Warner Home Video previously had released two "Joan Crawford Collection" five-disc box sets. Each remastered disc in each set was loaded -- in typical Warner Home Entertainment retail fashion -- with commentaries, vintage cartoons and shorts, and numerous other bonus features. The sets retail for $49.98 each, and typically are much cheaper online. (As I type this, Volume 1, which contains such masterpieces as "Mildred Pierce" and "Humoresque," is available for only $18.99 on Amazon.com, less than the cost of a single Warner Archive disc.)

 

Since March, the Warner Archive collection has released six Crawford titles, which suggests that a third retail box set is unlikely, and that all future Warner-owned Crawford films will be released -- unremastered and without bonus features -- through the Archive. Fine; but to buy five Crawford titles through the Warner Archive would cost $99.75 -- a heck of a lot more than $49.98.

 

So while we "classic" movie fans (I've watched "From Hell It Came" three times since I ordered it, Lord help me) can rejoice that the floodgates have been opened, we also can lament the fact that -- for example -- "Dance, Fools, Dance" with Joan Crawford may never will be available in the top-of-the-line special-edition disc that the movie deserves. But the reality is that such a special edition probably was a pipe dream, anyway...

 

To discuss the Warner Archive Collection, The Bloodshot Eye spoke by phone with Feltenstein (whose official title is "senior vice president for marketing for theatrical video," at Warner Home Video). Feltenstein has been working with the Warner library for almost a quarter-century now.

 

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

*The Bloodshot Eye*: How did this Warner Archive Collection initiative come about?

 

*Feltenstein*: Ten years ago, we had started working on limited-edition soundtrack CD's through a joint venture with Rhino Handmade. And the president of Warner Home Video International came to me and said, how can we do this for DVD? About three years ago, he said, "George I think I figured this out -- a manufacturing-on-demand system." So I started to select programming that I felt would really fit this dynamic... Things that I didn't think had a good shot of selling enough in retail to cover their costs, but things that had a fan base out there -- for example, "I Was a Communist for the F.B.I." was never out on VHS, but it's a great little movie. I am very fortunate that I work for this studio, because if there's something I that we own that I want to see, they will make me a disc on a custom basis, so I was able to look at many titles...

 

*Bloodshot*: How many titles are in the Warner library for you to choose from?

 

*Feltenstein*: We have 6,800 feature films, from Warner Bros., and RKO, and all the MGM films released through May 22, 1986. Also, Lorimar, Allied Artists, Monogram, lots of tributary companies. We have the last 11 Chan (Charlie Chan) films (from Monogram Pictures), and we are in the midst of restoring them from nitrate, and the first group will be out in stores next year.

 

*Bloodshot*: That's great news!

 

*Feltenstein*: The first six Monogram Chans belong to MGM, the current company. I put them out when I ran MGM home video for 10 years. I put them out on cassette and laserdisc, and they put them out on DVD, and that's what made Fox realize, "Oh gee, maybe we should put these out, too." [20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has released five Charlie Chan DVD box sets.] And it turned out to be a very smart business decision for Fox. We have the last 11 Chans at Warner.

 

*Bloodshot*: Some fans have feared that the Warner Archive is an opening death knell marking the end of retail DVD. Why put movies out in stores when a company's entire catalog can be made available on demand in this way?

 

*Feltenstein*: This was always intended to be a complementary business, not a replacement business. If something is available in the Archive, that doesn't mean we won't be revisiting it in retail in another way...

 

I totally understand how this could be perceived by some as a very ominous threat. "Why would the studios bother to release films in box sets with new masters and extra features if thye can sell these films without putting any effort into them for 20 dollars apiece?" The answer to that is that the films in the Archive generally are not ones that would come out otherwise... There are those that would never, ever come out at retail under any circumstances; then there are some that might or might have, had there still been Musicland and Sam Goody and Suncoast and all those places. Most of my accounts I used to sell to are out of business. That is the reality. Also, we've lost 25 percent of our staff because of layoffs.

 

So the changes in the market have been deeply upsetting to me on a personal level as well as on a professional level. It's very distressing to me that I can't go out on a Sunday morning and buy a DVD or a CD any more unless it's a top 40 best-seller... So I felt all the more excited that what we were planning to do by launching the Warner Archive Collecton was really a boon to film fans because they would finally be able to get all these films that we wouldn't be able to release under normal circumstances, possibly ever. So that is how we launched the business on March 23. Overall response has been overwhelmingly postive... For every two pple that are unappy about it, 98 people are happy about it.

 

Most of the Archive Collection releases are of the highest quality, from excellent masters, and are indistinguishable from a disc you would buy at the store. There are a few that are not quite up to snuff, and I was a little uncomfortable about that at the beginning, but I was assured by my colleagues that the consumer would have a chance to preview the master on a the site with a film clip that would tell them what it would look like, and that gave me a comfort level. And overall people have been very pleased. When we have sales, 10 movies for $99.95, we almost blow the system out, we are so overloaded with orders.

 

Now, had we not had the Warner Archive Collection this year, we would still have a rather sparse retail release schedule. Why? Certainly it's reflective to some degree of the fact that there's no more Tower Records, no more Virgin, no more Musicland... But our release schedule was specifically barren and smaller than normal because we're devoting our marketing efforts and our resources and staff on the retail level to the huge (anniversary edition) releases of "Woodstock," "The Wizard of Oz," "North by Northwest" and "Gone with the Wind," primarily driven by the fact that these are making their debut on Blu-ray... We've spent more than six million dollars to bring these to Blu-ray, and that, in and of itself, is as important as anything in the industry... Once you've seen these movies with six times the quality of DVD, it will blow you away.

 

My problem with Blu-ray is that the kind of movies I love are not available on Blu-ray, and they're not going to be available on Blu-ray until the player base gets bigger, and that's why we're biting the bullet and bringing classics to Blu-ray so we can broaden the base. So the news overall is really quite positive.

 

So we're not giving up on retail. The Archive is more aimed at the niche product. One could argue that well, John Garfield in "Four Daughters" is more important than Boris Karloff in "The Walking Dead" [note from The Bloodshot Eye: I wouldn't argue that!], but you'd be surprised at who's gonna sell more in retail. ["Four Daughters" is available through the Archive, but "The Walking Dead" was included on the "Karloff & Lugosi Horror Classics" retail box set, released Oct. 6 by Warner Home Video.]

 

*Bloodshot*: You say most of the Archive movies would never come out through retail, but you had a great Garbo box set ["Greta Garbo: The Signature Collection," released in 2005]...

 

*Feltenstein*: It did wonderfully well...

 

*Bloodshot*: But now, some pretty key Garbo titles have been released through the Archive Collection, suggesting there won't be a second Garbo box...

 

*Feltenstein*: They're great movies, they're supposed to be. This is a way to get the product out to the people who want it.

 

*Bloodshot*: While fans appreciate the many titles now available, we miss the extras, the "Warner Night at the Movies" shorts and cartoons and supplemental material that accompanied these movies in the box sets released to stores, which made those sets so great...

 

*Feltenstein*: That's all my innovation, things I developed and I'm proud of and things we'll still be doing. The whole thing with collections was my idea, we started doing that with the Marx Brothers in 2003. We'll do a big box set next year of Errol Flynn wartime films that are very famous, that are being restored from the camera negatives, that will have commenataries, the "Warner Night at the Movies," the whole bit... And we have the Esther William set... [the retail "TCM Spotlight: Esther Williams, Vol. 2," released Oct. 6.]

 

*Bloodshot*: I would've thought the Lex Barker Tarzan films, out through the Archive, would sell more in stores than Esther Williams. Am I crazy?

 

*Feltenstein*: You're not crazy [he said tactfully], but people don't realize how popular Esther Williams films are. The (first) Esther Williams box set we did, we earned over two million dollars in profit. That's why we're on our third set of Doris Day movies. Her movies sell incredibly well.

 

*Bloodshot*: I thought gangster and crime movies were popular -- "Beast of the City" [a violent 1932 movie available throught the Warner Archive] would seem like a natural for a retail gangster collection...

 

*Feltenstein*: I never even put "Beast of the City" on VHS. Like "Pride of the Marines" [a John Garfield picture, available through the Archive], it never came out on cassette, it never came out on laserdisc, that doesn't make it right, it just means we never got to it. But these sets are very costly (to produce). The "Forbidden Hollywood Collection" that we did in March ["Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume 3," a must-own!], that cost over a million dollars to put together, because of the remastering and restoration... I mean, there's no way in hell we would make that money back any time quickly, and the furthering of technology does not bring those costs down... And we believe that we still need to do that (to remaster and restore classic films), we have a responsiblity to do that. But as someone who is a film film, an enthusiast of the highest order myself, and I read everything that people say on the (film fan) boards (on the Internet), I believe most people don't understand that we're running a business here. Part of this is my own fault, I'm the one who brought the prices down so if you buy a collection, you get a movie for seven bucks.. Buy the film noirs (in a retail box set), get five movies for $35... And now we're coming out with a movie (via the Archive), it's 20 bucks, so I see why some people don't understand... But ten years ago, people would pay $30 for a movie, they'd pay a fortune for a laserdisc, so it's really all perception.

 

Other studios, they saw how successful we were being (at Warner Home Video, with the classic-movie box sets), and they rushed out to try to be like Warner Bros., and that hurt the market. Like, for example, Fox did very well with Charlie Chan, and they always do well with Rodgers & Hammerstein, but almost everything else they did aside from that the last couple of years lost a ton of money. They made a lot of product that was returned, that ended up in the bargain bin at Costco, and that just gives classic films a bad name across the board, because people buying at the retail level, they don't know who these people (Bette Davis, Greta Garbo, etc.) are, they think an old classic movie is "Silence of the Lambs"... So it's all perspective.

 

What it really is (with the Archive) is we have gone into an area before anybody else, again. I like to think we're the innovators and others follow. And indeed, every studio is planning to use manufacturing on demand. [in fact, Universal recently began making some vintage titles available in a manufacturing-on-demand partnership with Turner Classic Movies.] The problem of excess inventory and returns is one that's very difficult to deal with, and this eliminates that.

 

Manufactured-on-demand uses a "burning" process. Everybody thinks a burned disc is significantly inferior to a pressed disc, they think it's like a disc they burn in their home computer. It's not, and properly care for, it will last as long and function as well as a pressed disc. And yes, there were some bumps that had to be ironed out, some interlacing issues -- some problems that popped up at the beginning, but they have been fixed. [Note from The Bloodshot Eye: I've watched about 30 Archive Collection discs, and only one had a glitch -- which is close to the same ratio I experience with my store-bought DVDs. I was able to return the disc and receive a replacement with no problem.]

 

Even this year, with the economy being what it is and the video landscape being as eviscerated as it's been, there's still a great demand for movies on DVD. I would like to say -- and please don't be offended by this -- the media has spun such paranoia about this with, "Oh, DVD is dying and Blu-ray is threatening," when, of course, Blu-ray is the greatest thing ever invented, in my opinion. And the DVD is not dying and the only thing that will make it die is people going on TV saying it is dying.

 

The bottom line is there's nothing to fear, (the Archive) isn't going to take away from anything, it's going to only add -- and please, god, let's hope that the world economy improves and retail sales improve. You know, people don't go on the Internet to say, "I just bought the 'Forbidden Hollywood' William Wellman set, and I just loved it." But they'll be running to say, "Oh my god, there was a scratch on frame three of scene five" -- these people are obsessed with trying to find something wrong.

 

This is not a nefarious way to cut out the middle man. Our intentions are to provide more films to more people. Our intentions are honorable and I stand by our product.

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I ordered two movies Rosalie and Thousands Cheer as a test from Movies Unlimited because I am a Canadian and the Warner Archive continues NOT to sell to Canada. They claim it's because of a rights issue which is ridiculous because Movie's Unlimited willingly ships their product to Canada with no fuss, no muss.

 

I have a bone to pick with NOT shipping to countries outside the U.S. I'm not living somewhere in the third world in a remote outpost only reached by sea and six months of treacherous travel. The UPS guy can find me just as easily as he can find any American who shops WB.

 

If WB wants to expand their market share with the Archive, may I suggest here and now that they ramp up their commitment to mail to we Canucks who desperately want their product?

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> {quote:title=NZ wrote:}{quote}

> If WB wants to expand their market share with the Archive, may I suggest here and now that they ramp up their commitment to mail to we Canucks who desperately want their product?

 

NZ,

I totally agree, and it's too bad they haven't been able to follow through on what they'd said months ago.

 

In the meantime, might I suggest you consider finding a trading partner at some of the dedicated DVD & blu-ray forums like blu-ray.com or HomeTheaterForum.com? Some people in the U.S. are eager to buy stuff from Canada, such as FutureShop exclusives that aren't always available stateside (the store doesn't ship outside Canada). You might be able to find someone with whom to trade movies.

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