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Warner talks with HTF about their 90th AnniversaryWarner
96 replies to this topic
Posted December 13 2012 - 12:11 AM
At Warner Brothers Jeff Baker the Executive Vice President & General Manager of Theatrical Catalog introduced himself, discussed the home video divsion and screened a portion of a film about the Warner Lot that he commissioned for the upcoming 90th anniversary box sets. Here are some excerpts of his presentation: Jeff Baker: So I ended up here in Warner Brothers, and was running domestic sales. And then about seven years ago the company split off into three business units, the new release business unit which is basically the movies that are in the theaters that come out three, four months later and end up on DVD and Blu-ray. And they do the marketing for the films on DVD and Blu-ray for six months and then it flows into the catalog group which is the group that I run. At that time I really wanted to focus on remastering product and repackaging product. I'm a big believer in memorabilia, I love memorabilia. I think it's just fascinating. I know that all consumers feel that way. I don't get that much feedback frankly from consumers about a lot of the packages that we developed. They keep coming back to buy more, so I assume they like it. If you look through some of the packages we've done like Casablanca and Singin' in the Rain you'll see old memos and telexes and other notes that we've been able to find in our files. I have about 40 people that work in my group, but I'm the one who goes to the storage facilities. It's kind of like you're Tom Hanks in one of those movies where they have the lights and the white gloves and they bring the files over to you, it really does happen that way. We have incredible storage facilities and files in the company and we have just about every memo and letter that was written and notes that were not destroyed. And so we go through them, we try to find things that we think are relevant to consumers they might like that relates to the film. So in the case of Casablanca we've got notes with regard to the film actually being named Casablanca versus Rick’s Great American Café which was the original perceived name of the film, so really great archival stuff. The one thing with Warner Brothers that’s different is how we treat our catalog in our library, I don't mean this disrespectfully to the other studios. But when we broke off into these three business units the methodology or the idea behind it was to really have three individuals focusing on the different segments of the business. The third segment which I didn’t mention actually is television and animation. But the other studios have one marketing group, one sales group, so they kind of treat library product, new releases, television, TV on DVD, animation, and documentaries kind of all the same. They market them appropriately as they see fit. But it's basically one group handling everything. My group only lives and breathes and touches library products. So I do believe that’s a competitive advantage that we have since other studios have chosen not to take that path; it’s why we are as good as we are at marketing and developing content for this market place. And I think you know that Paramount has licensed nearly 700 films to Warner Brothers -- that's really unprecedented, I mean, MGM has done that for years because they don’t have much of an infrastructure, but that's the only other arrangement in the business historically where a studio licensed their films to a competitor. I think it speaks to the fact that, they didn't have the infrastructure at Paramount to deal with their product the way they should have and they felt that we were the right partner to do it with. So we're excited about that. You're going to see some incredible products coming from Warner Brothers with Paramount next year. We're basically going to co-mingle the libraries. Together we're going to create multi-features that are totally logical and then we think there will be great consumer demand for. I'll give you an example. Two of the biggest epic religious films of all time Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments, well, we got Ben-Hur at Warner Brothers and of course then The Ten Commandments was with Paramount. We're going to do a double feature on Blu-ray and standard definition of that. We are going to take two of Bogart's greatest films Casablanca and The African Queen and put them together. So this is the kind of thing that we're going to be doing. [These were just announced] I'll give you some other examples: Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon , I think that's a pretty good matching, the Dirty Dozen and Stalag 17, so we get some great, great complimentary content between Paramount and Warner Brothers. In addition to continuing to sell Paramount product individually which we will, we are going to create these multi-features and I think the consumer is going to be the big beneficiary from being able to buy these films and collect these films and own these films that logically go together. We started talking about the 90th anniversary about two years ago. And we wanted to do something different from what the other studios have done historically. Historically many of the studios have restored few films for anniversaries which is something we do at Warner Brothers as part of our normal course of business, not necessarily because it's an anniversary. The other thing that they did is a tactic to get more shelf space in the stores and to get more attention online to their label in the anniversary year was to put at the top of the packaging what we call a lip sticker which is just sort of a moniker that shows their logo, the 100th anniversary of Paramount and Universal on single DVDs and Blu-rays. We wanted to take a different approach. We will do some of that as well, but we wanted our focus to be collections, film collections, and we wanted to do it big. Now, it's our 90th anniversary and you see here our 100 film collection. Some people from the press already asked me they said, Jeff, why a 100, I mean, why not 90? And I said, well, a few years ago United Artists celebrated their 90th if you may recall and they put together a 90 film box set and I said I wanted ours to be bigger. It's the truth. And then we put together the largest Blu-ray box set in the history of the business, 50 films. Now, any studio can take 50 or 100 films and put them in a box, it doesn't make a genius to figure that out. There was a process by which we selected these films because we have 6,700 films in our library. Out of them we released about 3,000 historically in Blu-ray. But we have to really go through it carefully to pick what we felt were the best films. And there was a little subjectivity to it. But I think you can finally see the list which are in your bags now in the on the thumb drive, you will see that they are pretty prominent films that are within our library. But just to put those films together wasn't enough. I felt we needed something that would capture the history and the magic of Warner Brothers to go into those boxes with the films. So we created two pieces of IP; the first is a tour of the Warner Brothers lot. Now, many of you may know that there is a tour offered to the public in building 160 just outside of the gates of the lot, actually it’s the building that I resided in. And I didn't want to publish the two-hour tour in which, you know, would be available to the public. I wanted to just sort of do an abbreviated tour and give somebody a taste of the Warner Brothers lot. The reality is that these box sets in this documentary that we're talking about is going to be distributed all over the world and mostly -- even though we have a lot of visitors from outside of the United States taking the tour the reality is, you know, there are 30,000 people or so that go through the tour every year. Well, there are over 300 million people in this country alone. So needless to say most people are never going to see the tour, most people aren’t going to come to California and go to a movie studio. So imagine if you live in Florida or you live in England or you live wherever and you buy this on Amazon, let's say, or someone buys it for you and gives it you as a gift, you open it up and you pull out this tour, you're going to see something that for all intent and purposes in your lifetime you never would have seen otherwise. So in that sense the tour is kind of interesting. And what we did is we did it low-tech okay, we took the tram which is what the people go on the tour use and I said to the tour guy look -- just pretend there are 12 people from Chicago in your tram. And you turn around to address them and talk about a particular spot on the lot that you're driving through, you know, just talk to them, but you’re really going to talk to a guy with a camera, okay. He got used to it, it worked out fine. And he basically takes the viewer on this 30-minute tour. It's really kind of interesting and we'll get you a copy of that. The second piece of IP was much more intricate. I wanted to do a documentary about the studio, the 90th anniversary, this type of a documentary has never been done here at Warner Brothers and you're going to see about 50 minutes of it this morning, so roughly a half, it's about the run time for the finished product is about an hour and 50 minutes. So its little bit less than half of the film. I had to pick out some selected scenes to show you, it was very difficult to do it like with children, you know, which one gets left out, it's difficult. But I managed to make the choice and the decision and I think you’ll be pleased with what you see. It's very, very unconventional and I'm not going to go any further than that because there is something that's unusual about it, but we'll see if you pick up on it anyway if not we’ll talk about it later. But the idea was how do you tell a story about 90 years of history, it's impossible in two hours, you can't do it obviously. So we had to pick those things that we felt important and I want to use the lot as sort of the centerpiece of the documentary and that's sort of the thread that runs throughout the documentary. So everything was filmed on the Warner Brothers lot. I can't tell you who the actor is, but he's one of the biggest actors in the business. I wanted him to be interviewed for one of this documentary and it turned out that he wasn't available to come here, but he said we could go across town to where his office was and we could film him there and I told my producers, he is out. No, if he can't come to the lot then we're not going to film his interview, everything was filmed on the Warner Brothers lot. So I think we're going to get started with the show. So for your viewing pleasure you are one of the first to see Warner Brothers Tales from the lot, 90th anniversary documentary. Hope you enjoy it. [Screen approx. 50 minutes of film] Speaker: Now I told you it was unorthodox and I don't know how many of you picked up on it, but other than the early clip of Al Johnson which we needed to show a clip, because it was the first talking movie, there were no film clips. Now, when I first proposed this project, I was told you can do it, because we trust you and you have a good track record in the studio, but it's not going to work. You can't do a documentary about a studio and not have a lot of the film clips. And my thought at the time was -- and I didn't know if it would work or not. But my thought at the time was if we're trying to tell stories -- and by the way, there are some incredible stories that you didn't see in the other half of the film. And I hope you'll come back to see that. But while [William] Friedkin is telling a story, if we broke off and we started to show Linda Blair with her head spinning and the pea soup and all that. And then you went back to the story, trust me, something would be lost in translation. You wouldn't have had the full effect of the story because you've been distracted by the clip, and the clip is very entertaining. I love clip shows; we've all seen clip shows, we love them, right? But the fact is, with this particular documentary, we were trying to tell a story of the lot and of the history, and a people that came through the system as work for hires to make films here, and told their stories that no one's ever heard before, I felt that film clips would be distracting. So anyway, it did work creatively we think and I hope you enjoyed it. Now, the other half of the film or the full film, if you will, is going to be screened here in our big theater, the Steven J Ross theater in January. So I don't know if we were supposed to, but I'm inviting all of you to come back -- even the two from England, but you'll have to come at your expense. But I'll buy you dinner, okay? But anyway, all of you come back and see the full film. We're going to have a press event for employees and press to come and see the entire film, and hope you'll be here for that. Now, you saw the documentary had a segment on Clint Eastwood, and you know, he's been here since '71 when he made Dirty Harry. We really felt like you couldn't have a 90th anniversary and program initiative without something for Clint. So some of you may be aware, and I hope that you're aware of the fact that we created a box set 35 films, 35 years a couple of years ago. We actually started working on it in '08; we introduced it in '10. Inside of that box set was a documentary called "The Eastwood Factor," which we worked with Clint on. It was a very special documentary, if you haven't seen it, I want to make sure you do see it, so let us know if you don't have a copy then I'll get you a copy. It was very special, I think for me because we were able to expose the personal side of Clint, which most people have not seen. And so what we've chronicled is his history at Warner Brothers in the 35 films over the 35 years, it showed the personal side of him. So when we decided on doing something for the 90th, I had this idea of a 40-film box set. Now, in this box set, there's 38 features, including Trouble with the Curve because this is going to be coming out before the end of May '13, okay. The 39 films, the Eastwood Factor is the documentary I mentioned earlier. And the 40th is a new documentary called Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story. Now, the idea behind that one was there have been lot of documentaries done on Clint and with Clint's participation. And I wanted to have a storyline that was different. So the idea was let's go to the actors who worked with Clint on his films, let's go to the producing partners who worked with Clint, and let's ask them why is it different when Clint is directing? What is it about Clint that makes him unusual and so successful? And I have to admit I had phenomenal expectations after the Eastwood Factor about this new documentary. But I'd also admit at the same time that you never know what you're going to get out of somebody in an interview. And we interviewed some pretty famous people which you'll see momentarily, all of these interviews were done over the last six months. But we've just completed, you're going to see about a 10-minute piece, it's a little more than 60 minutes in total. But we've really got some great material, and that would be the 40th film in this box set. The 40 films is the largest box set in the history of the DVD business, dedicated to an actor/director. [We are shown 10 minute clip] George Feltenstein: What I will say is I had the great honor of being in Jeff's office when he conceived of making this amazing film about the Lot. He looked out his window and he said I've got it. Let's get into a film about The Lot, not the studio, not the films, but The Lot. And about a year later, he was showing me pieces of it. And you could go -- you've been to a lot of other studios; you've been here before, you're going to go to the other ones later, but a lot other people that work in the studios used to make shoes or sell peanut butter. Jeff loves movies and Jeff's love for movies is exemplified by the kind of work that comes out of Warner Home Video and why we're all so proud to work here, and the fact that he conceived this. And in its full length, it's almost two hours long. And I finally got to see it when it was all put together; I had no involvement in it except to watch it as a spectator, and I just said to him afterwards, getting all choked up saying, I'm so proud of you. That he as an executive with the studio is so passionate about what we do here and about film that he was able to capture as a creative person, because there's other people involved, but this was his vision. He made this happen. When I walk on this lot, I'm always near tears just knowing everything had happened. You're in this room -- this is one of the two rooms where all the movies that were made here were screened. Jack Warner's personal room is the next room which had its own personal bathroom, and he would, you know, talk about that in other times and other places. But you're here, you're on this what I consider hallowed ground, and that Jeff has created this film in honor of the studios anniversary; it's an enormous achievement. And I'm so grateful -- because you guys mean the world to us -- that he has taken the time out of his day, not only to host you he was talking to you before I got here I'm so thrilled. It means the world to me. I would run into his office and say, this is what people are saying on Home Theater Forum and now he knows who you are. And now you've spoken to him and now you know who he is, and it's because of Jeff that we go back and do things and make them better; it's because of Jeff that we're going to have The Big Parade on Blu-ray next year. So many of the things that were only dreams happened because of him and my colleagues and how dedicated everyone is who works here. And I think the beautiful thing about this documentary that you got to see the junior version of as Berry Meyers said it, when you work here, there's something about the employees here, and I'm grateful to be here for a very long time. I want to stay for about another 50, 60 years, if they'll let me. It is a great honor and a privilege to work here. And on behalf of everybody here, I want to welcome you as a friend to the Home Theater Forum to Ron and to Adam and to everyone. And they plowed me with so much liquor last night, again -- it was really Diet Coke, but I thought it's sounded better But so between that and traffic, I didn't get here quite as early as I wanted, but fortunately, I just stood quietly in the back. So anyway, on behalf of myself and everyone in our offices across the way who know that you are here, a hearty welcome from me. And we're also going to be going to Motion Picture Imaging. When are we leaving to go there? Okay well, Warner Brothers Motion Picture Imaging, I just want to say something about them before we go over there. How many of you were here the last time for the last meeting? Okay, so most of you were -- but I guess about half of you weren't. I've said this before, I'll say it again. Warner Brothers Motion Picture Imaging are the wizards of Oz. They are the most talented, creative, dedicated persons I have ever worked with. And they never -- good enough is not good enough for them; they're always setting the bar higher, trying to improve things, trying to make things better, they're on the cusp of technology. They've made How the West Was Won, the SmileBox version four years ago. But Jeff was the one who made it happen because he was the one that believed in their vision. So it's all about how we all worked together. MPI has got some great stuff in store for you today, and it's my delight to walk over there with you. Once again, thank you so much for coming and being a part of seeing what we do here; it's a great honor to see all of you today. So thank you.
Posted December 13 2012 - 07:46 AM
MPI allowed us to see the telecine process in action on 3 machines simultaneously, which was an incredible sight. It's quite incredible to see original film stock running through a scanner at 7FPS - each frame being scanned at 4K. This was on the new lasergraphics machine they just recently installed. Adam, are we allowed to post any images from MPI?
Posted December 13 2012 - 07:53 AM
Will they release The Dirty Dozen and Stalag 17 double feature on Blu -ray?
Posted December 13 2012 - 08:11 AM
Any hints about classic titles they might be working on?
Posted December 13 2012 - 08:11 AM
I had gotten burned out on behind the scenes stuff after gorging on it during the first few years of DVD and having been a reviewer where I HAD to watch every extra. I'm now slowly coming around to picking and choosing the extras to watch. If they were all as high quality, informative and as funny as the one Warner showed during our stay I would be back into stuffing myself with them. This film was obviously shot from the heart by someone who cared deeply about the history and the people, and the surprising thing is just how professionally it is done given that it is a first time effort. Passion is a heck of a motivator but it's clear that the talent is there too!
I lost my signature and all I got was this Nutter t-shirt
Posted December 13 2012 - 08:16 AM
As I stated in previous threads back in October, I would like to thank Jeff Baker, George Feltenstein and all other folks at Warner for hosting us. They allowed us a peek at their upcoming plans for 2013 and beyond. I am very excited for consumers regarding the software opportunities their business arrangement with Paramount will give to the marketplace. Furthermore, I want thank MPI for showing us examples of their current projects and the wonderful work they're conducting on so many classic film elements. I look forward to playing many of their final products on my HT equipment as today, I have a better appreciation of the work that had to be done before these films become ready for software releases to the general public. In closing, I want to extend my deepest thanks to George Feltenstein for the wonderful discussion we had about classic film as it was one of the more memorable discussions I ever had with a fellow classic film buff. Keep up the great work, all you folks are doing at Warner and MPI. Crawdaddy
Posted December 13 2012 - 08:19 AM
Quote:Perhaps, is the only word I can give to you for now. IMO, I think The Dirty Dozen elements need some more work to be up to 2013 Blu-ray standards. Also, a lossless soundtrack would be nice too. Crawdaddy
Originally Posted by John Doe /t/325992/warner-talks-with-htf-about-their-90th-anniversary#post_4013250 Will they release The Dirty Dozen and Stalag 17 double feature on Blu -ray?
Posted December 13 2012 - 08:20 AM
Originally Posted by benbess /t/325992/warner-talks-with-htf-about-their-90th-anniversary#post_4013264 Any hints about classic titles they might be working on?
The Jazz Singer
Driving Miss Daisy
East of Eden
Rebel Without a Cause
The Public Enemy
The Petrified Forest
House of Wax (3D)
The Big Parade
Enter the Dragon (40th Anniversary)
The Exorcist (40th Anniversary)
A Christmas Story (30th Anniversary)
The Right Stuff (30th Anniversary)
The Mad Max Collection
Ocean's Collection including Sinatra, Martin and Davis film
The Wizard of Oz (75th Anniversary)
Gone With the Wind (Expected 75th Annivesary)
There will be several more titles coming out on BD too, but haven't been announced yet. Also, don't forget the Goldwyn and Paramount titles that Warner will be distributing over the next few years like Guys and Dolls and possibly The Best Years of Our Lives along with several other possibilities.
Posted December 13 2012 - 08:43 AM
Great reading ! This is the kind of information we like to read MORE about here at the forum and to really learn to know the guys behind all the GOOD stuff that comes form Warner - in MY opinion Warner is besides Criterion the BEST studio on blu ray titles ! *if only they could give us proper Amary blu ray cases on multiple disc-sets as well, instead off flimsy cardboard sleeves and plastic accordion cases everything would be close to perfect - PLEASE WARNER give us QUALITY PACKAGING to go with your high quality discs ! i read hear that Warner has a catalog of 6 700 movies - is there a listing available somewhere on the studios complete catalogs from start to present ? Keep up the good work all your passionate guys at Warner !
Posted December 13 2012 - 08:52 AM
I would like to extend my sincerest (and belated) thanks to all the folks at Warner Brothers for hosting HTF on their lot and giving us an inside look at their upcoming releases and multi-disc sets. Seeing and hearing the clip from the film about the Warner Brothers lot and some of the history of the studio itself left me eagerly wanting to hear and learn more! The tour of MPI and the magic they are performing with Warner's enourmous library was also fascinating! The wonderful gift bags with the marvelous box sets was also a phenomenally generous gesture, and I am thrilled to have both box sets in my collection! To be invited onto their lot during such a momentous anniversary made me feel just that much closer to the studio and its commitment to not only their films (past, present and future) but to their audiences as well!
Posted December 13 2012 - 09:19 AM
Loved the time spent at Warners. I just wish we could have had the entire day to explore the backlots (was particularly interested in seeing the section of the lot where The Mentalist is shot), but what we saw was so much fun. When we got our box lunches that day, several of us went to one of the street facades and sat on the steps as if we were in Brooklyn sitting on a stoop eating lunch. I also remember that I saw actor Wil Wheaton driving one of the Big Bang Theory carts away from the soundstage. He must have been guest starring in an episode that was shooting.
Posted December 13 2012 - 10:23 AM
There will be several more titles coming out on BD too, but haven't been announced yet.Still trying to keep the faith that one of those titles will be RAINTREE COUNTY!
Posted December 13 2012 - 10:32 AM
I loved seeing the 90th anniversary documentary as well as the Clint Eastwood one as well. I can't express how much I really liked these two things. I can't thank Jeff Baker enough on that. I loved how you had stories within the documentary without having to show clips of various films. The tour at MPI was really nice. Love seeing the restorations of East of Eden (at least i think thats what it was) and Cabaret. I did feel bad for the people's desk we walked by. I know I can get irked when a bunch of people walk thru my area. We happended to go on Farmer's Market day. This was really nice to see both for your employees and for us. The company store was very pleasant. I liked the Central Perk sign. About the only negative thing I have to say about our stay at the WB was not being able to take pictures until the end. Obviously, I wouldn't want any work product stuff, but i would have like to made pics of some of the standing sets and other things. Also I like to thank Jeff and George and the rest of Warner Brothers for day as well as the gift bag.
Posted December 13 2012 - 01:31 PM
Wow. Warners! What a warm and generous welcome we received. It's no wonder that they and Paramount have partnered, as they seem to share a similar philosophy of community and respect for their own history. This was made very evident in their restoration efforts on display (that 4k scanner was a beautiful piece of tech). And I could have spent much more of my day hunting through the archives for titles; what a wonderful facility! Two quick pictures of those boxsets given to us, uploaded to my wife's Facebook, and she was happy to have sent me! I hope she can join me next time we go to Hollywood, and that Warners Bros. well have us again!
If the way is clear, go forward...
Posted December 13 2012 - 01:53 PM
Still trying to keep the faith that one of those titles will be RAINTREE COUNTY!And all three versions of SHOW BOAT.
Posted December 13 2012 - 07:12 PM
I want to extend my thanks again to the great folks at Warner for hosting us again (my fourth trip to the lot with HTF and they always roll out the red carpet for us). George Feltenstein and the others are always the best hosts and hostesses you could ask for. Highlights for me: the documentary about the famous Warner lot in Burbank, the peek into the plans for the 90th anniversary box sets, the eye-popping restoration underway on East of Eden for the James Dean box set, and the teaser about the Clint Eastwood documentary in the works. Thanks Warner! You never disappoint (well, okay, allowing picture-taking on the lot would be much appreciated, but otherwise...).
"That suits me down to the ground."
Posted December 13 2012 - 08:27 PM
It was quite clear the Warner Brothers team really cares about the work they do. They of course have to answer to market realities, but when they do decide to move forward on something, there is no settling for anything but the best with whatever elements they have to work with. They are all proud of their work and rightfully so. While discussions on certain items (perhaps a title that may or may not be released) may not have allowed a definitive reply, never once did I feel like I was given a brush off answer from any of the Warner Brothers staff / MPI restoration team. Everyone from the colorist and transfer techs were all quite open and enthusiastic to chat about their work. Finding out how they handled certain previous titles, some upcoming ones, and the various hoops they had to jump through to make it all happen were simply incredible. I for one cannot be happier that HOUSE OF WAX (3-D) is a WB asset, and cannot wait to see what they do for their 2013 3-D Bluray release.
Posted December 14 2012 - 03:02 PM
I want to thank Warner Brothers for hosting us. The documentaries that Jeff Baker showed us were absolutely great. It was exciting to hear from someone that is so passionate about the studio. The documentary "Warner Brothers Tales from the Lot" was fascinating. It is exactly the kind of documentary that I like. I hope one day I will be able to see all of it. The 10 minutes we saw of the new Clint Eastwood documentary whet my appetite for more. I look forward to seeing it in its entirety soon. I enjoyed our tour of MPI. The folks there were very friendly and enthusiastic. I appreciate the opportunity Warner Brothers gave us to see how they work on and restore films. I really enjoyed our time with the nice lady that was working on East of Eden. I'm sorry I don't remember her name. (Maybe someone else remembers and can tell us). She was very friendly and open, answering all our questions about what she does. Thank you George Feltenstein, Jeff Baker and all the others that made our visit with Warner Brothers such a wonderful experience. It was certainly one of the true highlights of my trip to Hollywood.
"And in the end, the only thing you really own is... your story. Just trying to live a good one" - The Drover
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