Warners opens on-demand vault

5,000 films to be available in limited quantities

Warner Bros. is opening its vault–which contains more than 5,000 films never made available on DVD–to home viewers.

The studio’s Home Entertainment Group is launching a branded manufacturing-on-demand operation, offering films and TV titles whose limited sales potential have prevented a traditional retail release. Starting March 23, consumers can order 150 classic Warner movies for $19.95 each at new studio site WarnerArchive.com. The studio will ship a made-to-order DVD, in a shrink-wrapped case with cover art, to consumers within five days of purchase.

Some of the new-to-DVD titles listed at WarnerArchive.com include “Possessed,” starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford; “Once Upon a Honeymoon,” Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers; and “All Fall Down,” Warren Beatty, Eva Marie Saint. Others include “Sunrise at Campobello,” “The Citadel” and “Mr. Lucky.”

Warner intends to add 20 classic films and TV episodes each month to the MOD service, dubbed ‘Warner Archive Collection,’ and expects 300 titles will be available by the end of the year.

Warner has long been one of the more aggressive studios in releasing its older library titles on DVD, but thousands of films are still untapped for home viewing. Warner houses 6,800 theatrical films, of which just 1,200 have so far streeted on DVD.

“We release a lot of ‘first time to DVDs’–there have been around 30 to 35 already in this year’s first quarter–but we’re not making a dent in getting all the movies out to the people that want them,” said George Feltenstein, senior VP of theatrical catalog marketing at Warner Home Video. “And now, we are releasing more new-to-DVD movies on Monday than we have released during all of last year.”

Feltenstein said that the launch titles were based on the volume of consumer requests the studio has fielded over the years.

Likely upcoming TV additions to the MOD service, said Feltenstein, include “Maverick,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Bourbon Street Beat,” “Bronco,” “Lawman” and “Hawaiian Eye.”

Debbie Reynolds, whose “Mating Game” is among the MOD launch titles, will head up a publicity blitz for the service. She will appear on “The Today Show” and “Access Hollywood” to chat about its rollout.

Amazon.com has been backing MOD for some time with its CreateSpace service, with which filmmakers and program suppliers can use to custom manufacture DVDs as they are ordered. However, Warner believes its own service represents the most extensive MOD offering from a major studio to date.

“We are the first studio to lead the way on this,” said Feltenstein. “We like to be the ones who innovate.”

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