Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Warner Archive Plans Improvements

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post has interviewed George Feltenstein of Warner Home Video.

Feltenstein reports that the company is going to be setting "a higher bar for quality" for Archive releases due to fan complaints.

The lovely film OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945), starring Margaret O'Brien and Edward G. Robinson in one of MGM's finest pieces of mid-'40s Americana, was released to the Archive yesterday in a remastered print which Feltenstein says is "beautiful."

Curiously, the Archive listing for this film says it has not been remastered.

Which leads me to wonder A) if in the future remastered films will be labeled on the Archive website so that consumers know what's what (they need to fix that inaccurate OUR VINES listing!); and B) if they will be overhauling their dreadful website, which is hard to navigate and at times is slow as molasses.

One also wonders if the planned changes are in response to TCM's new Universal On Demand program, which promises remastered prints and extras.

I continue to believe the Archive's goal of making everything in their vault available to consumers is a good idea, but especially for the high prices they're charging, it just doesn't make sense to purchase many of their unremastered films. I have bought four Archive films this year -- three at a discounted price -- of hard-to-find movies I really wanted to see which have not aired on TCM recently. Otherwise, if I already have recorded a movie from TCM to tape, I can't see a reason to buy the DVD since it's probably going to look just like what I recorded from TV; the DVD's don't even have the convenience of chapter selections, which are a must for musicals, in particular.

Feltenstein says again that Warner has a "robust" schedule planned for regular DVD releases, but all that's mentioned in this particular article are projects which were disclosed many months ago, such as the long-awaited Film Noir Volume 5 and another set of Errol Flynn films.

I think the fact that the program for regular DVD releases has been dramatically scaled back needs to be addressed honestly. Warner's regular customers aren't blind (or "myopic," a curious comment which appeared in quotes in the article). We also know the current DVD market is undergoing changes. So why not simply address what's going on directly rather than continue to pretend things are still "robust"?

Circling back to the beginning of this post, I applaud Warner for taking steps to remaster more films. Mr. Feltenstein is a great friend to classic movies on DVD, and that fact should not be lost amidst the constructive criticism.


Blogger J.C. Loophole said...

I sure hope this bodes well for us! I have a Warner Archive disc and TCM sent me the Universal Horror Classics to review last week- the Universal/TCM print is awesome- with packaging,extras, etc- you really can't distinguish between a first gen disc and a dvd-r. I believe that WB will be heading that way. Whither Fox? If Disney goes this route, I expect the quality to be up to Disney par, and that Song of the South might become available finally. (I have an unrelated story about S.O.S. by the by, that I will try to post- or at least email you soon. It has to do with my current Humanities class I am teaching. Quite revealing)
Thanks for posting this- I've put a link to your post over at the homestead.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Many thanks for the link, J.C.! I enjoyed your overview of TCM happenings very much.

I think this was extremely encouraging news. Overall, although there are changes, good things are happening for classic DVDs, between what looks like a quality program from TCM and the "availability" concept of the Warner Archive. Hopefully over time the availability and the quality will meet up for the Warner program.

Looking forward to hearing more on SOS!

Thanks again,

9:00 PM  
Blogger James Corry said...

Laura, I've probably around 30 of the WB Archive DVD's and so far (as far as quality goes) I have no complaints. I certainly applaude what Feltenstein et. al. are doing as well......I have films I never DREAMED I'd see if their original formats (AA CinemaScope Westerns with Joel MacRae and George Montgomery)among others. The only real "criticism" that I and some of my pals have is their cockeyed PRICE. $19.99 per disc when all the CA. tax and shipping is included adds up to nearly $30.00 per disc (!!)THAT'S just a LITTLE "over the top".....but I'm an "old movie" addict, so what can I say....? I also have the "Universal Horror Box-Set" and one of the differences between what Universal-TCM is doing and the WB Archive is that the Universal films are all PRESSED discs whereas the WB Archive films are DVD-R's.....but, you "get what you get"......



6:47 AM  
Blogger Og said...

Warner Archives refers to DVD-R disc integrity:
"As a “real-world” testament to this – consider the CD-R. These have been in wide spread use for 15-20 years with no evidence of any systemic deterioration over that time. DVD-Rs use similar ink pattern technology to CD-R."

THAT is not encouraging. Anyone who has been burning CDs over the past ten years can tell you that CD-R longevity is a crapshoot. A disc might be good for years, OR it may fail after only a year or two. Personally, I lost many cakes-worth of data on cd-r before wising up. I am sickened every time I think of the money lost, not to mention the unrecoverable work data.

The chickens will come home to roost when Warner's dvd-rs start failing and the faithful leave the flock in droves.

If you really want to see the shows you'll pay the Capone price-tag. Just realize that nothing lasts forever, and some things less than others.

9:00 PM  

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