Warner Brothers Enters DVD-on-Demand Business

Classic movie fans rejoice: One of Hollywood’s biggest movie vaults is about to be opened up. Warner Brothers has started a new DVD-on-demand service where you will eventually be able to order any of the company’s 6,800 theatrical features that are not currently available on disc.

Here’s how it works: Within a week of ordering, you will receive a custom-made DVD with your requested film. The service costs approximately $20. Alternatively, customers will have the option to order films digitally for download directly to their computers. This option costs $15.

To date, only about 1,200 films in the Warner library have been released on DVD, largely because of space constraints at retail locations. To compare, about 4,100 movies from Warner’s library were released on VHS over the course of 20 years.

The Archive Collection launches today at warnerarchive.com with an initial slate of 150 films that have never been released on DVD. Some titles include 1943's Mr. Lucky with Cary Grant and Laraine Day, and 1962's All Fall Down with Warren Beatty and Eva Marie Saint. The oldest film currently available is the 1923 silent film Souls for Sale; the newest is 1986's Wisdom with Demi Moore and Emilio Estevez.

Warner Brothers plans to add 20 or more classic films and TV shows to the archive each month. To determine which films will be added next, Warner Brothers considers how well a film did in the VHS era, the availability of good-quality prints, consumer requests, and interest on the black market.

Initially, theatrical trailers (when available) will be the only special features included with a film. Down the road additional extras might be added, according to George Feltenstein, senior vice president of theatrical catalog marketing at Warner Home Video. For now, though, Warner is focused on getting movies that have been sitting in the vault for years out to the public. Feltenstein hopes to have at least 350 films available by Christmas.

As for quality? Feltenstein says, "We have digital masters of all of these films that have been created by the company as part of preservation and restoration [of films]. Some of them are in better condition than others. Most of them are pretty good. All of the films will be released in their original aspect radio."