WB’s classics new again in theaters

Studio creates new classics division

As its 75th Anniversary Festival of Classics continues a successful tour of the nation’s major cities, Warner Bros. has created a new classics division to make the rest of its 6,000-title library available for theatrical exhibition.

To head the new arm, the studio has tapped veteran distribution exec Roger Lewin as director of sales, effective immediately.

WB also will publish a new illustrated catalog of its extensive library titles, which will do double-duty as a consumer-oriented coffee table book and a sales tool.

The 330-page tome, which will be distributed to repertory theaters and other bookers of classic fare throughout the country, will be divided by genre and feature an extensive index by writer, director and cast.

“With the merger between Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting, two extensive film libraries were merged to make an extraordinary resource that we are proud to own today,” said Barry Reardon, WB president, domestic theatrical distribution.

While the advent of the VCR put many of the nation’s repertory theaters out of business, Reardon said he hoped some of the nation’s megaplexes would set aside a screen to feature classic films.

The 75th Anniversary Festival of Classics, a collection of such acclaimed Warner Bros. films as “Blade Runner,” “Casablanca” and “The Wild Bunch,” grossed $96,000 in one week at Hollywood’s Mann Chinese Theatre. The program is currently in Houston, where it’s expected to pull in about $19,000 for the week.

Part of Lewin’s job will be to create packages by genre, director or star, from the thousands of titles in the WB library, according to Reardon.

Reardon said that modern film restoration techniques and archiving would allow WB to present the films in excellent condition, “often in better shape than they were in at the time of their original release.”

“Roger’s knowledge of commercial and specialized theaters throughout North America will be fundamental to the growth of our Theatrical Classics division,” said Dan Fellman, WB executive VP of domestic theatrical distribution.

Lewin recently left Trimark Pictures, where he was senior VP of theatrical domestic distribution. Prior to that post, he was VP and assistant general sales manager (West) at Buena Vista, a position he held for more than a decade.