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Dear Warner Bros. -- Why Are You So Reluctant To Give Us the Silents Via Archive?

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#21 of 66 OFFLINE   ahollis

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Posted June 15 2014 - 07:15 PM

Ahollis is mistaken about one thing; physical media will NEVER be entirely replaced by streaming unless those of us who know better resign ourselves to settling for what the studio is willing to offer. Just remember, what they offer isn't ALL that the market will bear. NEVER confuse the two. Demand is still high for physical media. Those of us who refuse to suffer from imposed obsolescence of the present day malaise of collective cultural amnesia are still alive and kicking. The studios don't readily wish to acknowledge this as fact, but it is so nevertheless. Viva la collector! Now and always.


It's not up to us, unfortunately. It will be up the distributors that say enough is enough and we will stream. I thought the same way you did for many years but I now hear more friends saying "Oh I watched such and such film on Netflix or HBO Go or Hula or Drive-in Classics". They are paying the monthly fee or per film cost. I have never had so many friends talking about the movies or TV shows they stream.

Yes demand is still high for Physical Media now, but will it continue? Anyone still use an IBM typewriter, fax machine, Bell and Howell 8mm projector, VHS tapes, bought a Castle Film lately, or planing on buying a desk top computer anytime soon? Or purchased Kodak film? Or when was the last time a laser disc was produced? Time marches on. We already know that titles like OLIVER can not sell 3000 discs in six months.

I love physical media. I love hold it in my hand. I love being able to look at it when I want to. I have over 5000 DVD and Blu-Ray titles and treasure each of then, but have realized that in 10 or 15 years, maybe less, that they will be as favored as laserdiscs are now, a wonderful memory of the past that we can hold on too.
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#22 of 66 OFFLINE   Bob_S.

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Posted June 16 2014 - 03:43 AM

I still plan on buying a desktop computer when my old one dies (it's in its death throes right now). I also have a laptop which is convenient for portability but I still prefer a desktop.

For me, I consider streaming a companion to physical media. Due to expense and storage room I only buy movies/tv shows that I really, really want (I currently have close to 1,000 dvd/Blu-ray movies/tv shows).

There are many movies/tv shows that I like but not enough to own, this is where streaming has been a godsend. Also I'm not much into blind buys. The Warner Archive program has a ton of old movies that I haven't seen but since Netflix doesn't carry them I have no idea whether I'll like them or not. I'm seriously considering Warner's streaming. Do they have a large number of old movies available for streaming?

#23 of 66 OFFLINE   JoelA

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Posted June 16 2014 - 05:37 AM

As Mr. Harris stated earlier, WHV/WAC has been very supportive of silents. I'm sure that Greed, The Wind and The Crowd will be released by WAC or WHV at some point. These are all high profile titles from the silent era that have a following. As WAC has stated numerous times on Facebook, they will not release a title unless the elements are up to par. I own The Crowd/The Wind laser and these two titles could certainly stand some remastering/restoration efforts. Let's hope that Ned Price and his team at WBMPI are working on these and other titles for eventual release on either blu ray or standard def. formats.

In addition, they have stated that a silent title won't be released unless it has a music score. That's not an issue with these titles, of course, but I'm sure it is with many other silents in their catalogue.



#24 of 66 OFFLINE   Dick

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Posted June 16 2014 - 06:18 AM

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I love physical media. I love hold it in my hand. I love being able to look at it when I want to. I have over 5000 DVD and Blu-Ray titles and treasure each of then, but have realized that in 10 or 15 years, maybe less, that they will be as favored as laserdiscs are now, a wonderful memory of the past that we can hold on too.

I too have a vast library of Blu-rays and DVD's, and I am sure there are some that will go unseen by me until the day I die. But the fact that so many excellent titles from Paramount and Warner Bros. and others are now out of print and available (if at all) only by streaming has made me a hoarder. I want to know I have these long-unavailable discs in my library to watch in the highest quality available. That is the collector mentality speaking. But as a kid I spent every disposable dollar on 8mm films, then 8mm sound, then super 8mm, then super 8mm sound, until I amassed a collection of several hundred. I sold them all when VHS, laser discs and CED discs became available (wish I hadn't, as there is a pretty large demand for these old Castle Films and whatnot now). I collected hundreds of discs, while slowly getting rid of my VHS tapes, which had never been as good as 8mm projected films but which were cheaper and had the entire movie on them...what a movie collector's dream come true at the time! Laser discs were to us in the 80's what Blu-ray rays are now -- an exponential jump in quality that made movie collecting really fun all over again, and diminished my desire to attend movies theatrically. Blu-rays and DVD's are just so bloody great! Fortunately, the vast majority of films I have wanted to own have become available, if not on Blu-ray, then on DVD, and they are all safely on my shelves awaiting rediscovery any time I want, depending only upon my mood. My love of movies has not wavered, although my love of recent current cinema has dwindled to almost nothing from a high in the 70's, when I saw at least two films every week. But classics will always be classics. And I am awaiting the Kino UA titles with great anticipation. I await today's (?) announcement of a new batch of Criterions. Each Twilight Time announcement gets me salivating. And if Warner Bros. can start pumping out their Paramount titles as well as the above-mentioned silents, they will get part of my disposable income, too!


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#25 of 66 OFFLINE   ahollis

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Posted June 16 2014 - 06:32 AM

I still plan on buying a desktop computer when my old one dies (it's in its death throes right now). I also have a laptop which is convenient for portability but I still prefer a desktop.

For me, I consider streaming a companion to physical media. Due to expense and storage room I only buy movies/tv shows that I really, really want (I currently have close to 1,000 dvd/Blu-ray movies/tv shows).

There are many movies/tv shows that I like but not enough to own, this is where streaming has been a godsend. Also I'm not much into blind buys. The Warner Archive program has a ton of old movies that I haven't seen but since Netflix doesn't carry them I have no idea whether I'll like them or not. I'm seriously considering Warner's streaming. Do they have a large number of old movies available for streaming?


I started using Warner Archive Instant about three months ago a found that they have a great number of old classic films and TV shows. From the silents to 80's titles. From the Bowery Boys to Mazie, from Our Gang to Travletalks. Currently I'm watching the TV series Surfside 6, 77 Sunset Strip, Dr. Kildare, and Hawaiian Eye.

Seeing this and HBO GO is what changed my mind on streaming vs physical media.
"Get a director and a writer and leave them alone. That`s how the best pictures get made" - William "Wild Bill" Wellman


#26 of 66 OFFLINE   Nick*Z

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Posted June 16 2014 - 06:44 AM

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ahollis, whose opinion I continue to hold in high regard on these forums, has said "it's not up to us". My point is exactly the opposite - it is! Enough people buying physical media and rejecting streaming sends a message. Lest we forget, Hollywood is a profit-driven center. They look at the numbers - period. Low returns, less investment. It's that simple.

 

I think streaming - like all new technologies when they debut - had its groundswell of popularity at the start. It's continued to remain as popular as it was at the outset, but numbers have since leveled off. Plateau is never a good sign for future projections. In fact, its usually a signal that overall popularity has begun to cool.

 

Now, counterbalance this with the artificially induced downturn in classic movie output from all of the majors after 2006 and the corresponding plummet in profits. We - the consumers of such classic output on DVD - DID NOT abandoned classic movies on DVD. This is a misconception and, frankly, a myth.

 

Rather, the studios preempted the demise by chucking DVD for Blu-ray, hoping the conversion from one format to another would be overnight the way it was when DVD eclipsed VHS in the market place. Alas, the economic downturn put the kibosh on such a meteoric switch - also, the fact early Blu-rays were selling for far too much (I recall HMV's 2 for $80 "sale" for the first Christmas Blu-ray was out).  Consumer mentality - apart from the early adopters - became, "why spend twice as much when I can buy two DVD's or more for the price of a single Blu-ray?" Who can blame them...or rather...us?

 

There's one other aspect of Blu-ray's lackluster performance to reconsider; namely, that so few have been mastered utilizing the technology to its optimal level. When you wait five years for a West Side Story, My Fair Lady or The King and I to be released in hi-def, only to have the transfer badly mangled, it definitely sours the consumer on looking forward to other titles on their wish list. Hollywood can still save Blu-ray from oblivion because it remains a superior technology to streaming. There's no debate there.

 

Warner's Archive division, as example, has immensely impressed with impeccable Blu-ray releases. Really, it's some of the best work coming down the pipeline. Their choice of titles to release may be suspect but the effort, time and money invested to make each disc spin like a Rolls Royce is commendable. You can't compare Warner's releases of Kismet, Hit the Deck or The Wind and the Lion (as example) to Fox's The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Desk Set or The King and I. No comparison. One studio is doing their utmost to honor their past, the other is merely trying to milk it for a few extra bucks without taking the time to ensure the consumer is being completely satisfied in the end. 

 

What needs to happen now IS up to us. We need to buy the good stuff, say 'rubbish' to the bad and stop streaming, no matter how desperately we want to see something in digital right now. The old adage - "do you want it right or right now" applies here. Patience is a virtue. Remember how long it took Sony to give us Lawrence of Arabia? While most were critical of the delay (Sony had, in fact, advertised Lawrence as part of their flagship release to launch Blu-ray...it never happened), I kept hoping the delay meant the studio was hard at work doing something wonderful with their archival elements. I was NOT disappointed and my faith in their integrity was decidedly renewed. 

 

That needs to happen again and again - and not just at Sony. Fox seems to be the biggest transgressor this time around and - truly, I cannot figure out why. Schawn Belston is a good man and a concerted archivist besides. You can see the fruits of his labors on Hello Dolly!, Cleopatra, The Agony and the Ecstasy, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Jesse James and others.  But the studio's hit or miss mentality has to stop if Fox wants to save face with collectors. Sorry fellas - but teal tinted transfers don't cut it - not now...not ever!  


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#27 of 66 OFFLINE   ahollis

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Posted June 16 2014 - 07:15 AM

Nick I agree with everything you say except I don't think there is enough of us to make a difference. My friends are not going to quit streaming. Many of them use Netflix, HBO GO and others and do not have even basic cable. Those are the ones that aren't buying physical media. I well continue to purchase DVDs and Blu-rays of what I want, but our numbers are getting fewer.
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#28 of 66 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted June 16 2014 - 07:30 AM

Nick I agree with everything you say except I don't think there is enough of us to make a difference. My friends are not going to quit streaming. Many of them use Netflix, HBO GO and others and do not have even basic cable. Those are the ones that aren't buying physical media. I well continue to purchase DVDs and Blu-rays of what I want, but our numbers are getting fewer.

Exactly. I had seen bits and pieces of a movie or a TV show streaming before and was unimpressed with the quality and so it was just something that I was basically not interested in. The only thing I've ever really sat down and watched streaming from beginning to end was the last season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (since I literally had no other legal option to view it) and I would say that overall, it looked terrible. Despite what I think, I don't know anyone else in the real world that doesn't stream movies or TV shows because they're all satisfied with the quality and they aren't going to suddenly decide it sucks and go back to Blu-rays and DVDs.


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#29 of 66 OFFLINE   Rob_Ray

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Posted June 16 2014 - 07:52 AM

Most of my friends don't see it as an either/or situation.  But most of my friends are film-loving collectors.  Things they really love they have to own on physical media.  But that doesn't mean they don't watch 77 Sunset Strip on Warner Streaming.  For me, it's going to take the place of subscribing to cable and watching TCM -- not the purchasing of physical media.


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#30 of 66 OFFLINE   Vic Pardo

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Posted June 16 2014 - 09:50 AM

The problem is: how much physical media can we own? The number of titles out there is infinite but the amount of space we have to store them is finite. I've had to cut back seriously on purchases and hope to stop entirely at some point and start streaming. Not because I like seeing things that way but because soon, when I retire, I won't have the disposable income, nor do I have the space. I have to start getting rid of stuff. I'd love to start donating parts of my collection, but who takes VHS tapes these days? Nobody. And at some point soon, who will take DVDs? Nobody takes books either. And I have thousands of those as well. Or old magazines, as rare as they might be. I'd hate to have to throw stuff out and I hope to eventually find archives, libraries or other places I can donate these things to, but I'm not hopeful. Right now, I have more films on tape or disc than I can ever watch in my remaining lifetime. And more books than I can ever read, even after I retire. And there will always be new stuff that will interest me. I suspect this is a dilemma shared by many on this board.

 

And, like Ahollis, I don't count many friends who are collectors. I look at my friends, most of whom are film buffs of varying degrees of obsessiveness and can think of only one who has a amassed collection similar to mine. And the next generation (daughter, nephews, younger colleagues, etc.) collected some titles before streaming became big, but now they find everything on-line or on their e-books. My daughter has routinely given away books, tapes, discs. Nothing stays for long in her household. Which is probably better for her in the long run. She can move if she has to. I can't. I'm stuck in my apartment (which I own) and couldn't move unless I first took the time to throw everything out if I couldn't unload it any other way. Which could take weeks of labor--or months. And would be quite traumatizing.



#31 of 66 ONLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted June 16 2014 - 10:00 AM

Most of my friends don't see it as an either/or situation.  But most of my friends are film-loving collectors.  Things they really love they have to own on physical media.  But that doesn't mean they don't watch 77 Sunset Strip on Warner Streaming.  For me, it's going to take the place of subscribing to cable and watching TCM -- not the purchasing of physical media.

Same here, it's what I've become as I adapted to the changing dynamic of the home video market.


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#32 of 66 OFFLINE   JoHud

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Posted June 16 2014 - 10:56 AM

A few reasons why we haven't been seeing many silent films lately.

 

-Almost all of the acceptable silent film transfers made previously for TCM and already in the can have already been made available through the WAC.  Those cost far less to make than making a new silent film.  Really only a handful are left from TCM circulation, and only a fraction of those are available for WAC to go ahead on.  Every silent film currently made available through the WAC was previously remastered and funded by TCM and The WAC has yet made available a brand new transfer specifically for its MOD line.

 

-The WAC still has not figured out how to go about funding the music necessary for the majority of these films.  Likewise, some of the silent films that originally came with separate Vitaphone similar discs still have not had those discs located and are thus on the backburner until those sound discs (all of them) are found.  Brand new silent film transfers appear to be more expensive to do than talkies primarily due to the cost of hiring a musician to not only perform the music, but to compose a track for the film. Sure the could slap on a stock "old-timey" soundtrack or release a completely silent transfer, but does anyone really want that?

 

-A few of the major silent classics like Greed and The Wind are already on the record as being withheld by WHV pending an eventual bu-ray release.  The WAC currently has no control over those films.  Old news.

 

-There are plenty of silent films that survive, either entirely or in part, only in poor quality elements or lower-res 16mm.  Some are major enough to let suce dips in quality slide (i.e. the newly remastered Metropolis) but that is often the kiss of death for any potential blu-ray release of a lesser-known film.

 

-The WAC might release some of the previous silent films that were given retail DVD treatment (Buster Keaton, Greta Garbo, Lon Chaney) but again their choices are very limited.  The WAC is not going to release a blu-ray of any film, let alone a silent film, if it had never been given retail DVD treatment before.  Like the vast majority of studio retailers, they're only comfortable doing retail DVD retreads.  Absolutely no sign this position is changing.



#33 of 66 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted June 16 2014 - 11:11 AM


-A few of the major silent classics like Greed and The Wind are already on the record as being withheld by WHV pending an eventual bu-ray release.  The WAC currently has no control over those films.  Old news.

 

I tend to think this is the biggest reason the "Big Three" - Greed, The Wind, The Crowd - are still MIA from either WHV or WA. WHV probably sees some sales potential through regular distribution, but who knows what conclusions their release of The Big Parade will allow them to draw? Yet these titles are too significant for them to hand over to WA.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#34 of 66 OFFLINE   bigshot

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Posted June 16 2014 - 11:39 AM

People are frequently suggesting I stream these movies. I am one of those collectors for whom streaming does not cut it. I want a hard disc in my hand that will play in my player. I hope Robert is correct and that more are coming...

 

That's fine, but you aren't going to get as much of a selection of titles that way. Unless a title merits the marketing of a physical disk... meaning there are enough people out there who want to buy it... it won't happen. But once a transfer to video is struck, the cost of streaming is next to nothing. Silent films are a niche product. It will only become more of a niche product as time goes by.

 

I can only speak for myself... I love silent films and will buy them *IF*... the musical score is recent and well done, the transfer is significantly better looking than DVD, and if the price is low. There are silent films that fit all three of those categories, but not many. For me, I would rather just watch a streaming copy of a film with a mediocre soundtrack or rough transfer than buy it. Unless they are willing to go full bore on the restoration and score, I'm not interested. That requires a significant investment. More of an investment than any studio could hope to recoup in most cases.



#35 of 66 OFFLINE   bigshot

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Posted June 16 2014 - 11:47 AM

I'm seriously considering Warner's streaming. Do they have a large number of old movies available for streaming?

 

Yes, and many of them are in HD. WAS delivers HD streaming MUCH more dependably than Netflix.



#36 of 66 OFFLINE   Worth

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Posted June 16 2014 - 11:49 AM

What needs to happen now IS up to us. We need to buy the good stuff, say 'rubbish' to the bad and stop streaming, no matter how desperately we want to see something in digital right now.

 

I don't see why this has to be an either/or proposition. I'm certainly not going to spend $20-30 on a title I've never seen, and will almost certainly only watch once, when I can stream it for $4-5 dollars, or as part of my Netflix plan.

 

On the other hand, I'd like to own a copy of certain favourites that I can have in my hands and know won't be deleted from a server somewhere.


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#37 of 66 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted June 16 2014 - 11:50 AM

Yes, and many of them are in HD. WAS delivers HD streaming MUCH more dependably than Netflix.

 

I would sign up if they made it available on the PS3 or PS4.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#38 of 66 OFFLINE   bigshot

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Posted June 16 2014 - 11:54 AM

I tend to think this is the biggest reason the "Big Three" - Greed, The Wind, The Crowd - are still MIA from either WHV or WA. WHV probably sees some sales potential through regular distribution, but who knows what conclusions their release of The Big Parade will allow them to draw? Yet these titles are too significant for them to hand over to WA.

 

I don't think it has anything to do with sales potential. The studios are having trouble selling copies of the core mainstream catalog stuff, much less silents. I think The Big Parade was a prestige thing to keep up with Paramount's Wings. It had everything to do with studio pride not market, and I'm sure they lost quite a bit of money on it.



#39 of 66 OFFLINE   Dick

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Posted June 16 2014 - 12:30 PM


"The WAC still has not figured out how to go about funding the music necessary for the majority of these films.  Likewise, some of the silent films that originally came with separate Vitaphone similar discs still have not had those discs located and are thus on the backburner until those sound discs (all of them) are found.  Brand new silent film transfers appear to be more expensive to do than talkies primarily due to the cost of hiring a musician to not only perform the music, but to compose a track for the film. Sure the could slap on a stock "old-timey" soundtrack or release a completely silent transfer, but does anyone really want that?"

.

TCM solved that problem some years back by having a (then) annual contest for aspiring composers to score neglected silent films. The winner was showcased on the movie channel and was given credit on the film. I do not believe there was any monetary reimbursement. Why can't Warner Bros. do something like this? (For that matter, why can't TCM continue their own program?)



#40 of 66 OFFLINE   Vic Pardo

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Posted June 16 2014 - 12:40 PM

 

"The WAC still has not figured out how to go about funding the music necessary for the majority of these films.  Likewise, some of the silent films that originally came with separate Vitaphone similar discs still have not had those discs located and are thus on the backburner until those sound discs (all of them) are found.  Brand new silent film transfers appear to be more expensive to do than talkies primarily due to the cost of hiring a musician to not only perform the music, but to compose a track for the film. Sure the could slap on a stock "old-timey" soundtrack or release a completely silent transfer, but does anyone really want that?"

.

TCM solved that problem some years back by having a (then) annual contest for aspiring composers to score neglected silent films. The winner was showcased on the movie channel and was given credit on the film. I do not believe there was any monetary reimbursement. Why can't Warner Bros. do something like this? (For that matter, why can't TCM continue their own program?)

 

 

Just out of curiosity, do fans of silent films really want new scores on these films? I never really thought about this much myself and I can't say I considered the issue of what score was used on the handful of occasions on which I've bought silent films, although I might have hesitated if I'd known the score was new. I tend to be skeptical of new scores for silent films because every time I've seen a silent film theatrically with musical accompaniment that was composed/arranged specifically for the showing, it's turned out to be absolutely terrible. I guess I got spoiled when I used to see silent films in the 1970s at the Museum of Modern Art and they were all accompanied by William Perry on the piano. That man was a genius. I don't recall how he came up with his scores, but I'm pretty sure he incorporated lots of cues from sheet music compiled from the silent era. He didn't just sit down and compose something new. 


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