A few thoughts about...THE WARNER CHAT [Everyone on this forum should read this!]

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ronald Epstein, Mar 24, 2009.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    Warner Bros. Live Chat Transcript

    There have been so many times that I or this forum have been
    called "studio shills" that it has sort become a badge that we all
    proudly wear. I bring this up because I am certain by the end of
    what I am about to say, someone somewhere, is going to be calling
    us a "shill" for defending a studio like Warner Brothers.

    My defense to these accusations is that we have a closer relationship
    with all the studios than most people ever will. We know and speak
    to most everyone in the Home Entertainment divisions on a semi-regular
    basis. Through the years we have learned first-hand the reasons why
    things are done the way they are.

    Studios have embraced HTF members during our yearly meets because
    it is important for them to educate consumers about some of the inner
    decision making that goes into releasing product to the market. Those
    who have been fortunate enough to be part of our HTF meets will attest
    to the fact that politics and other unavoidable factors often result in
    release delays and lost opportunities to put out that perfect Special Edition
    everyone feels they deserve.

    Last night we had one of the best online chats with Warner Brothers
    that we ever had. There was a record 160+ attendees in the room
    and we raced through approx. 42 questions in a little over two hours.
    Unfortunately, we had the cut the chat short. There was a communication
    error on the alloted amount of time that we had, and I got a call at
    the 2-hour mark asking that we wrap things up.

    I spoke with Warner Bros. this morning and they feel bad for having
    to wrap up the chat when it was HOT. There is talk about there being
    another chat in the near future to make up for the lost time
    . The
    problem is, the studio has been reading some of the feedback posted
    in our forum overnight.

    This goes out to the vocal minority. Most all of you were polite in
    your comments this morning.

    Before the chat even began last night someone openly texted to me
    that the studio "lied" to them in a former chat about a certain release
    that never came to fruition.

    This morning, I'm on the phone with Warner Bros. reading posted
    comments like these:

    I don't think the people that make these kind of comments really understand
    the Home Entertainment business.

    First, do you realize how impossible it is to get any studio to agree to a live
    chat with our membership? Outside of Warner Bros., Fox has been the only
    studio that has agreed to do studio chats and that was because of Peter
    Staddon. Once he left, the general studio chats with Fox ceased altogether.
    I was amazed they approached us for THE ROBE, and am highly appreciative
    to Schawn and Kavita for making it worthwhile. I hope we made them proud.

    Warner, on the other hand, has done somewhere in the area of 11 chats
    with us over the years. They don't do it with any other site. That says
    something incredible about their dedication to this forum and its membership.
    I know for FACT that they read all your comments on a daily basis and
    the reason why many of these rare titles are starting to come out is
    largely based on your posted suggestions.

    We can't get Fox, Paramount, Universal or Disney to do these general
    studio chats. The reason is very clear why. For a studio to put themselves
    on a live venue and open themselves up to any question our members
    would like to ask is nothing short of suicide for them

    ....and you know what, some of your negative remarks overnight prove
    exactly that!

    OF COURSE there are things the studio is going to be vague about.
    Do you know how competitive the studio business is? None of these
    studios want to readily announce secretive release plans to the public
    or each other for that matter until the time is right.

    And some of those titles that you feel Warner promised you and could
    not deliver upon? They didn't lie to you. Many times, the studio has
    product set for release and corporate steps in and pulls it. Sometimes
    they run into legal snags. As it was put to me on the phone earlier
    today, "things change around here on a daily basis."

    Yet, it amazes me that some of you feel the studio owes you something.

    Read the transcript of last night's chat and I think you will be amazed
    at the amount of revelations that were announced months early. For
    every vague answer, there was a wealth of information announced last
    night. And for that the studio has to wake up to a thread filled with
    negative comments?

    Yeah, it's true that THE BOWERY BOYS, THE DEVILS, and TWILIGHTS
    LAST GLEAMING have been promised for years by the studio. Each
    year they feel they are are nearing the point they can get these titles
    out. I personally was told the reasons why each of these films still
    have not seen the light of day, and I am confident enough to tell you
    that there are very valid reasons that have nothing to do with playing
    games with consumers. As these titles get released we hope to explain
    to all of you what the holdup was. However, to blatantly announce
    that information would greatly jeopardize the chance of those titles
    every seeing the light of day.

    The cold hard truth is that the studio cannot just come into a chat
    and give you any piece of information you ask of them.

    At this point we are trying to negotiate another chat with Warner.
    However, I will tell you truthfully that the negative comments that
    were posted on this forum is deterring them from doing a follow-up
    this year. Can you imagine their perspective on all this? They did
    what most other studios would not. They put themselves on the line
    and gave all of you some really great announcements and answers to
    your questions. Yet, when they had to sidestep some questions in order
    to keep their cards close, they were subjected to negativity.

    We are working to bring more of these chats from other studios to
    this forum. However, it's going to be an impossible sell if the vocal
    minority continues to post these hurtful comments.

    You guys should be very proud that HTF receives more studio
    interaction than any other forum of its kind. We aim to provide
    both negative and positive feedback to the Home Entertainment industry.
    When negative feedback is called for, we hope that our members will
    continue to express it in a polite and constructive manner.
  2. Pete York

    Pete York Supporting Actor

    Dec 1, 2004
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    Well said, Ron.

    The last time I had this conversation around here, the general response was that Warner needed to toughen up a little if they couldn't take the heat. I'm of the mind that you should at all times be no less than courteous to an invited guest who you hope will want to return one day. Others don't agree.

    So, while you said what needed to be said, I think it falls on deaf ears. Some would rather be adversarial than genial and there are always going to be those who feel it is well within their right to speak, shall we say, indelicately. Which it is. Just as it is Warner Bros. right to never come back here. It's just not especially helpful from 'our' standpoint if you're trying to build a relationship.
  3. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

    Nov 15, 2004
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    The basement of the FBI building
    Nice post, Ron.

    I'd just like to say that I appreciate Warner taking the time to discuss things with everyone. And I hope that they don't think that the vocal minority (whose only apparent joy in life is complaining) do not represent everyone at HTF and that the majority of us are happy for the opportunity to communicate with them.
  4. MikeIMH

    MikeIMH Extra

    Mar 12, 2004
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    Thanks, Ron.

    That needed to be said.

    We are very fortunate to be able to have a two way dialogue with Warner Bros and to be able to influence even in a small way their release choices.

    I think we just have to let them know how grateful most of us are that they take the time to "chat" with us, and to reinforce that the discordant notes are from a vocal minority among us.

  5. Chris S

    Chris S Cinematographer

    Apr 9, 2000
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    Real Name:
    Chris S
    Very nice post Ron.

    While I missed the actual chat due to work obligations (darn economy) I did follow up with the transcript and the feeling I took away from that was nothing short of admiration for Warner and their participants. Like you said, no other studio goes to these same lengths.

    It is my hope that Warner does see that these overly negative comments are from a small minority and do not represent the vast majority of the HTF that greatly appreciates their participation on our forum.
  6. John_S

    John_S Stunt Coordinator

    Mar 16, 2004
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    My thanks to Warner also. I couldn't be more enthusiastic about all of the new product announcements, and when reading through the posts this afternoon thought the same thing about the negative comments and complaints.
  7. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

    May 16, 2001
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    Georgia (the state)
    Real Name:
    Patrick McCart
    As annoyed as I am by their silents being delayed year after year, at least they're going to do it right by working with Kevin Brownlow. Compare to Kino, which continues to release PAL-to-NTSC releases or omitting scores even when fans constantly criticize these decisions. I'd hope WB learned a bit from the irritating work on the Chaplin DVDs.

    But I'd like to hope that the delays work out to be good for timing BluRay releases with some of the more prominent silents like Greed, The Big Parade, and The Crowd. Even if the MSRP needs to be around $40 like the TCM Archives sets. I have no problems with paying that much for a comprehensive Greed BluRay.

    At least WB puts an effort to answer questions. Some other studios seem to turn a blind eye. The economy is terrible right now and I can't blame any studio for having to scale back projects for classics. Except for the studio that insists only classics with John Wayne sell on DVD.
  8. silentman74

    silentman74 Agent

    Mar 22, 2009
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    I also agree with Ron regarding the negative comments.

    As I am also guilty of posting negative thoughts before the chat begun, I was disappointed by the lack of knowledge about international releases. This was somewhat understandable, if not a bit premature considering that no one really knew what the plans were. I don't remember Warner's issuing a press release on their new archive collection so before the chat, many had to wait and figure out how they could get these movies. At least Warner's opened the chat stating that international orders would be accepted in the future.

    As I posted in another thread, I think that forum members should put together a list of questions, so Warner's could answer them. Members would ask questions as before, but a least there would be some control on what questions are asked. Remember, Warner's is sitting on a lot of knowledge here , and the only way we are going to learn about upcoming projects is to ask the right questions. I doubt Warner's will just tell us everything at once.

    After the forum, several members seemed disappointed that someone else did not ask about certain movies or actors. I wanted someone to ask about Lon Chaney since a collection has been promised in previous chats, but no one did. Yet, there were questioned asked about movies already on disc like Superman and Batman. Maybe the next chat could focus on pre 1970 films. This might seem unfair, but with each chat, we hear questions about the same films over and over, and these members are the ones that seem disappointed when they learn Warner's have no plans for them.

    Anyway, if Warner's is reading these commands, please keep up the good work, give us plenty of Silents and please, please, ignore the negative comments here. You deserve better.
  9. CineKarine

    CineKarine Supporting Actor

    Jan 24, 2007
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    Very well said, Ron.

    I think by this point everyone knows how overjoyed I am about the latest Archives announcement and about the chat last night. I actually postponed a trip - flight and all - to be able to participate! I was happy with most of the questions asked (considering every question appeals to different persons) and greatly enthusiastic about the answers and I honestly could not ask for more after hearing all about the Archives Collection. I mean, can anything EVER beat this? An endless array of films, every month. Wow!

    As I said in an earlier post this morning, I am so sincerely grateful to the HTF who hosted the chat and to Warner for being willing to share so much with us. It IS a privilege and I am not taking it for granted. There will always be complainers, but they are not the vast majority. It's just that they are usually more vocal than the happy, but calmer majority. [​IMG] Thank you for a very rewarding experience and for all the amazing, triumphant news we've had in the past few days.
  10. Ed Moroughan

    Ed Moroughan Second Unit

    Mar 10, 2003
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    Star Lake, NY
    Real Name:
    Edward R. Moroughan
    Excellent post Ron. We are damn lucky that any company decides to talk directly to us, and I thank them for spending that time here. I missed the opportunity to ask about more Cinerama releases, but if WB decide to come back soon hopefully I'll get a chance. I have yet to look through the Archive site but it's my next stop. Thanks WB! [​IMG]
  11. RafaelPires

    RafaelPires Second Unit

    Jan 13, 2004
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    I totally agree with Mr. Epstein and Karine.
    The only won that angry nowis my wallet, considering the amount of titles I'll have to buy from this Archives Collection.
    Tks again, WB!
  12. Anthony Thorne

    Anthony Thorne Supporting Actor

    Oct 10, 2000
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    I wrote the grumpy DEVILS post and want to apologise to Warners and HTF for the narky tone of it. They preluded their response to the original query with a hint that they were fully aware of its hot potato status and the various threads here and elsewhere requesting it. Logically, if it aint out, something's holding it up, and it was foolish of me to vent my frustration at the good WHV folks for things that are likely out of their hands. Apologies to Ron, HTF and Warner.
  13. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

    Jul 11, 2003
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    Real Name:
    Michael Elliott

    To add to this people could also start up their own website, get a few sources and see how some of this stuff really works. God knows you don't have to have a massive site like this one but even a small one with a few members would work because one "source" or studio could teach people a lot.

    I hit upon your quotes in the original thread last night but before the chat was over, sure enough, a wildfire had broken out about "lies" the studio were spreading. A bunch of B.S. that goes around as the truth, which is sad.
  14. Tim Tucker

    Tim Tucker Screenwriter

    Jun 10, 2006
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    I agree with everything you wrote, Ron!

    There was a lot of useful information in that chat transcript.

    And the sense of entitlement and lack of manners that lay behind some of those comments is unfortunate.
  15. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

    Jul 11, 2003
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    Real Name:
    Michael Elliott
    A lot of it also has to do with people just liking to feel cheated. [​IMG]

    I'm sure if titles XYZ were announced the same people would just get upset that the next three on their list weren't talked about.
  16. DavidJ

    DavidJ Producer

    Jul 23, 2001
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    I read this thread earlier today, but I was not able to post at the time. Now that I have the time to post, most of what I would've said has been more eloquently stated by other members of the forum. I especially appreciated the Pete's comments about invited guests. Seeing as we're all really guests here, courtesy should rule the day.

    I don't think that means we can't discuss valid criticisms and questions, but it does inform how we discuss those issues. One of the strong points of this forum is that for a group of passionate, opinionated people our discussions remain civil. I think it is one of the reasons that a company like Warners is willing to have a chat here.

    As we all tend to be passionate about the films we love, I also think we should be willing to cut the the "vocal minority" some slack. Like those that have posted already, I too appreciated Ron's post as it is indicative of how this forum is led and we have already had some of that "minority" respond positively to the post. I think that speaks well of the forum membership.

    Even though I thanked Warners in another thread, I'd like to reiterate it here. They certainly have no obligation to engage in these chats and the fact that they do underscores their commitment to bringing their films to the home video market and to the customers that make up that market.

    One of the negative comments that really stood out to me was along the lines of "messing with their customers." No successful company that I know of would "mess" with their customers. I think Ron's post does a good job of explaining the many factors that are at work regarding the flow of information and product. It is natural to want to know more or to be disappointed in product delays---I often am, but that doesn't mean that Warners or any other studio doesn't value its customers. They do want our money after all. [​IMG]
  17. Anthony Neilson

    May 26, 2003
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    Absolutely agree with you, Ron. It must feel like a very thankless task at times.

    Just two slightly lateral points, though.

    The first is that WB should understand that people respond in this way because they care, possibly to an unhealthy degree. I, myself, was struck by quite an irrational feeling of anxiety when I heard that BARRY LYNDON, one of my favourite films, wasn't coming to Blu-ray.

    It's pathetic, in some ways, to care so much about something so essentially trivial. Probably most of us need therapy. But that passion that gets us foaming at the mouth when we find out they're not releasing that obscure cowboy movie only we remember in high def or anamorphic or its original stereoscopic, sepia-tint, roadshow version - that's the same passion that means we'll buy everything and not just once; that's the same passion that means we'll disseminate information throughout the internet and bully our neighbours into investing in Blu-ray.

    WB don't need to talk to us. But they do need us, for all our whining, just like we need them, with all their cloak-and-dagger politics. They don't have to talk to us but it's damn good policy to do so, because we are their footsoldiers. And like any footsoldiers, we'll complain about the Generals. But we'll still be the ones that go into battle when it comes to it; no matter how bitter the recession gets, we'll be the ones missing lunch so we can buy that frankly awful old horror movie. We'll just bitch that they're starving us while we do.

    I hope they understand that. I'm pretty sure they do.

    Second point is this: the format. With respect, I think maybe the chat format causes more anxiety than is necessary. People are desperate to view the chat and lots of them can't; people are desperate to get their questions asked; people are annoyed because no-one's asking the questions they want asked; people are annoyed because people are asking damn fool questions and wasting the little time we have. It's a recipe for discontent and that's before the studio's said anything.

    Now I'm not sure how you fix that, but personally I've always felt that the rule about not deciding what's asked beforehand - whilst I understand it in some ways - is more of a hindrance than a help. Might there not be some way to reach a consensus about what's asked, and/or who's asking it? We might lose some of the gloriously democratic nature of the chats but it might be worth it for the increase in ground covered.

    Perhaps we could even just vote on twenty movies and make sure they get asked about before dealing with other issues. It might mean the blood presssure's a bit steadier when the chat begins.

    I don't know. I know more about studio politics than I do about running a forum and that's not saying much; so I could be talking out my beard. Hope you take these comments in the helpful spirit in which they're suggested.
  18. Jon Martin

    Jon Martin Cinematographer

    Sep 19, 2002
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    I think that this would be a very good idea as well.

    HTF members could make a list of WANT titles to give to Warner, and they can say at the beginning "Of the list, there are plans for ..." That way, if someone can't make the chat, or doesn't get called on, they could get an answer.

    That way, the chat could focus on larger issues rather than just a list of "Will this be released on DVD?" questions.

    As for the tone of the boards, all I can say is I guess we now know why no one from TV companies holds chats here. The Warner threads were civilized tea parties compared to some of the discussions in the TV section.
  19. WadeM

    WadeM Supporting Actor

    Aug 11, 2006
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    I read some of the negative comments last night right after the chat, and was thinking all the way home from work about responding just the way you did, albeit not so eloquently. Very well stated.

    It boggles my mind that WB goes out of their way to spend a significant amount of time to chat with HTF, and brought us such excellent news, only to have people say "What's the purpose of the chat if they're just gonna evade questions and just say yes and no?"

    I loved the chat last night!! I was ecstatic when it was done for all I had learned. There's so much good stuff coming that I want.

    I sincerely hope that WB comes back, but, with such negative, unappreciative, responses like what I've read from some HTF members...

    I can't imagine inviting someone over to treat them like that.
  20. RickER

    RickER Producer

    Jan 4, 2003
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    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    Real Name:
    Its because of many reasons, that i own more Warner DVDs and Blu-rays, than all the other studios, combined. Not just because they have the biggest movie library in the world. They simply know how to do it!

    Thanks for everything WB, wish i could of been in the chat!

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