Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Warner DVD Archive

Verrrry interesting DVD news comes from Thrilling Days of Yesteryear and Something Old, Nothing New: Warner Bros. is going into the "made to order" DVD business.

The first 150 films available are listed here.

The lack of extras is a bit of an issue for me; I've taped over two dozen of these films from TCM and at $20 apiece I'm not likely to incur the expense of "upgrading" them all to DVD without additional material on the DVD. (This ties in with an interesting recent discussion in the comments here.)

On the other hand, there are titles in which I'm extremely interested, starting with PRIVATE LIVES with Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery (very exciting!) and CLOSE TO MY HEART with Ray Milland and Gene Tierney, and there are some favorite titles that I'd like to obtain on DVD. I will definitely be taking advantage of this program...I suspect I'll have PRIVATE LIVES in my hands within the next couple weeks.

I applaud Warner Bros. for deciding to make so many titles more widely available on DVD, with the promise of more to come. This also seems like a great opportunity to obtain DVD copies of relatively obscure films which have a loyal following among classic film fans but might not rate a fullscale DVD release...for instance, I'd love to see future releases of the Sloan "FAST" mysteries or the FOUR DAUGHTERS series if there's no hope of seeing them released in a more elaborate set. (2020 Update: I happened to revisit this post and note that the Sloan mysteries were eventually released by the Warner Archive in a 2013 collection, while the FOUR DAUGHTERS collection came out in 2011. It took a little time but they did make it out thanks to this program!)

Overall this strikes me as an exciting development, especially if the economics are such that we are going to be seeing fewer boxed set releases. With a few notable exceptions, the pace of classic film releases on DVD seems to have slowed way down this year.

And as a side note, I share the interest of the commenter at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear in buying season sets of MAVERICK! I was thrilled to recently discover I can see all the episodes online via Netflix, but I'd really love to own them all.

Monday Update: My dad passed along a very interesting Glenn Erickson "Extra!" column at DVD Savant. (Note, the Savant columns don't have individual permalinks, so you may need to scroll down to find this column after a couple days.)

There is lots more info here, including a quote from Warners' George Feltenstein: "The goal is to eventually make EVERYTHING available." Twenty titles a month may be added to the list. Movies will be available for digital download as well as on disc.

Glenn also linked to this AP article. This article is also filled with detailed info, including the word that TV shows will be included in the releases -- so there may yet be hope for fans of MAVERICK and other classic TV shows not released on DVD.

Warners sees this as a way to keep DVD business plugging along despite the poor economy and the overall downturn in DVD purchases.

Here's more from Susan King at the L.A. Times. Each disc will include the trailer if it's available, which is wonderful news for people such as myself who love movie trailers.

There is a live chat with Feltenstein tonight at Home Theater Forum. It's advertised as follows: "Our friends from Warner Home Video apologize for the delay in bringing you their annual chat. The delay has enabled them to culminate many new exciting projects, all of which will be announced during this chat."

I suspect this will be a very hot topic this evening. Hopefully we'll soon learn the fates of the boxed sets for Turner, Tracy, and others which are mentioned in the comments for this post.

Stay tuned!

Afternoon Update: Here are thoughts from J.C. Loophole at the Shelf. (And thanks for the nice compliment, J.C.!) J.C. includes a link to a Feltenstein interview at the International Herald Tribune, which includes this quote: ""There are still thousands of movies that we own that consumers haven't been able to get. I expect that we'll be selling thousands of copies of every title over a period of time, and making a lot of people really happy."

They also quote Debbie Reynolds, who says that in the future she won't have to resort to a movie projector and bootleg copies to see her old movies: "It just seems like a miracle it can be done this way." Reynolds' THE DAUGHTER OF ROSIE O'GRADY is expected to be included in a future wave of releases.

USA Today quotes Feltenstein as saying: "Our goal is to eventually open up our entire vault," Feltenstein says. "We've been working on this for three years. I've always said it would be great if people could buy anything in our library, and now the time has come, because the technology finally exists."

Feltenstein said the criteria for these new releases will be based on many factors, including how well a film sold on VHS, consumer requests, and how much interest there is in bootleg copies on the Internet.

Amazon also sometimes has entries for out-of-print titles where consumers can click to indicate interest.

Monday Evening Update: Here is a post with detailed notes I took from this evening's Home Theater Forum live chat with George Feltenstein of Warner Bros.

Most -- but not all -- of the info shared about classic film releases for both retail DVD and via the Archives is included in my notes.

I also added a bit of information to that post about my first attempted order.

Wednesday Update: Here is my latest post which includes information on TV series which will be released via the Archive. Yes, MAVERICK is on the list!


Blogger Nicole Newcomb said...

I went to and apparently Four Daughters will be coming out on DVD because in the movie clips of various films they show Jeffrey Lynn in Four Daughters but I'm not sure when it comes out.

6:28 AM  
Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

This makes me wonder if any of these will be available on Netflix, as some people may like to see some of the films out of curiosity- but not purchase.
I'm excited to see that Warners is finding other ways to get some these films out there. In addition to Private Lives, which I am so thrilled to see- there are some great Cary Grant, Gable and Loy and Gable and Crawford titles as well as a lot of Spencer Tracy.
I am curious however. Some of these titles I had heard being mentioned as titles for future box set release, such as in a Spencer Tracy Signature Collection and Vol. 2 of a Clark Gable Collection. I wonder if several box sets were scratched and then placed in this type of release. If so, that's a big disappointment in some ways, as I do enjoy my WB box sets, over and over with commentaries and extras. Also I just really enjoy having a physical DVD "Library". $20 a pop is expensive, especially since if I had my way, practically the whole list would be in my shopping cart!
I am especially encouraged to see several Marie Dressler films, including Tugboat Annie- and two films I have been eager to see for quite some time: the two Edison bio films with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney.
All and all this is a very encouraging move and hope to see some more titles, although I believe this is another signal of the beginning of the end of DVD.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks very much for that info, Nicole, I'll check out that part of the website. Welcome!

J.C., you make many great points. For instance, I've been hearing about a Lana Turner boxed set for over a year, if not quite a while longer; there are many Turner films available. HONKY TONK would have been a natural for the Turner set or Gable Vol. 2. Not coming? Same question regarding the Tracy set you mention. And etc.

Is there any chance that movies which are now available might also show up later in a boxed set with extras?

Like you, I really like to physically own films and the more extras, the better. There are a lot more titles here I'd be snapping up if they were, say, $8 or $9. The price forces much greater selectivity. That said, making lots of movies available is sure better than WB sitting on them forever...

I just now read a Glenn Erickson column with more info which I'll be linking to...check it out!

Best wishes,

9:18 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I'm so excited for this! I'm so glad that Warner Bros. is trying to keep making their archive of movies available while still being economical about it. Keeps them in business and us happy.

I am going to get Private Lives too! Along with some other Norma Shearer films. Like you, I won't necessarily upgrade if I have a taped copy of one of these films.

10:16 AM  
Blogger David K. said...

Hi Laura,

We're all over it at and we'll have them available for rent. We've posted them alphabetically and chronologically.

As Nicole mentioned, Four Daughters is in the Promo on the site so we should expect it soon. Also in the promo and not yet available are: The Strawberry Blonde, Thousands Cheer and Bright Leaf.


10:30 AM  
Blogger Missy said...

When I first read about this early this morning I was intrigued, but then I saw the prices. I probably won't purchase much, if anything, at the prices Warner is currently quoting. We don't even know what quality the DVDs will be...I suspect it will be a lower quality than a mass produced DVD.

I hope they lower the prices, and then I hope other studios will follow suit. (It would be great if Netflix got some of these titles, but I wonder if Warner will try to block that.)


12:49 PM  
Blogger NoirGirl said...

Gotta say, this is exciting, even with the $20 a piece price tag. I have quite a few of these films on tape like you, and that hefty chunk of change isn't going to make it easy for me to ditch my VHS tapes. I'm going to try to buy at least one though, because we need to encourage the film companies in this endeavor. Otherwise, we'll never see these amazing films come to DVD and that is truly tragic.

I agree with you, too about the extras. It's a lot of money to pay for just one movie and nothing else.

(Totally unrelated sidenote - I'm having a giveaway on my blog, if you'd like to check it out. It's my first one, so I'm excited about it. :)

4:02 PM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I'm always on voting for titles to come out on DVD. I hope others are doing the same. And I have multiple e-mail addresses.. hee hee.

4:02 PM  
Blogger NoirGirl said...

I vote for my favs on TCM too! I always wish I could see the ranking all laid out on one page. But, I've never been able to find it.

You know, I actually have multiple email addresses now and it never occurred to me how useful they could be! Thanks for that little tip Raquelle! :)

5:49 PM  

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