Entrance to the Ross Theater on the Warner Bros. lot. During CES, I received an email from Ron Epstein asking me if I’d be interested in going to Burbank to be part of Warner Home Video’s press event. Two seconds later when I said yes, my anticipation level for the event began to grow, and I’m happy to say I was not disappointed. On February 5, 2008, Warner Home Video hosted approximately 100 print and online media representatives to the Warner lot to showcase their plans for their 85th Anniversary. I ran into The Digital Bits Bill Hunt prior to getting on the tram so we had a couple minutes to talk about this upcoming event. Bill said in years past Warner’s held the press conference in one of the board rooms, and my original invitation said the same thing. However, I found out about a week before the event that response had been so great they were moving it to the Stephen J. Ross Theater on the Warner back lot with a champagne reception to follow in the Warner Museum. My wife also accompanied me on the trip and she was quite excited when we were given a quick tour of the Warner lot including seeing the ambulance bay from ER and several other notable sets. Once we arrived at the Ross Theater, the Warner’s staffers were getting some last minute preparations together for the presentation. Soon we were ushered into the theater itself. I must tell you, the Ross Theater is one of the best I’ve ever seen. It is huge, for one, but the aesthetic of the theater screams of Warner’s fabulous history. Bill and Warner’s Ronnee Sass made me envious by telling me how great the restored Blade Runner looked in that theater. As we sat there waiting for the presentation to begin, I would hear the other press sitting around us discussing the Blu-Ray/ HD-DVD format war. I figured, due to Warner’s recent move to BD that this topic would be at the forefront of the presentation. Surprisingly, not a word of it was officially mentioned. Ronnee Sass started off the night thanking us for being there, as did the next two speakers, Jeff Baker and Ron Sanders. Baker took over the presentation by explaining Warner’s plan for their 85th anniversary. It comes down to two main things: restoration of catalog titles to provide the best presentation possible, and reintroduction of Warner’s pictures to a new, and probably younger, audience. Baker told us Best Buy and Amazon were partners with Warner’s for this celebration. The 85th Anniversary celebration will be broken up into nine different parts during the four quarters of 2008. There is a mix of new, special editions and re-releases of catalog titles: Q1: Oscars and Warner Gangsters: The highlight of this quarter will be the DVD, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD release of Bonnie and Clyde Ultimate Collector’s Edition and Special Collector’s Edition. Completely remastered and restored, this title is being given the same treatment as was recently given Warner’s Blade Runner sets. We got to see the packaging for the DVD release, and the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray’s will come in a booklet style packaging. I did not get to see the HD version up close, but the DVD set looks great. This quarter will also include: Goodfellas: Special Edition, Heat: Special Edition, Once Upon a Time in America: Special Edition, True Romance: Special Edition, Film Noir Classics Collection Volumes 1-4, Warner Bros. Tough Guys Collection (6-Pack) and Warner Gangsters Collection (6-Pack). DVD boxset of the upcoming Bonnie and Clyde release. Q2: Sinatra and Dirty Harry: 2 New-to-DVD Frank Sinatra box sets: The Golden Years & The Early Years (The Man with the Golden Arm, None but the Brave, Some Came Running, The Tender Trap, Marriage on the Rocks, Double Dynamite, Step Lively, It Happened in Brooklyn, The Kissing Bandit). New WHV 3-film box set: Sinatra & Kelly Collection (Take Me out to the Ball Game, On the Town, Anchor’s Aweigh). New Rat Pack Ultimate Collector’s Edition with exclusive “first run” stamps, a music CD and rare collectibles (Ocean’s Eleven, 4 for Texas, Robin and the 7 Hoods, Sergeants 3). All five Dirty Harry films will be released in an Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Dirty Harry 2-Disc Special Edition, Magnum Force Deluxe Edition, The Enforcer Deluxe Edition, Sudden Impact Deluxe Edition, Dead Pool Deluxe Edition and a bonus disc, Clint Eastwood: Out of the Shadows. Q3: Superheroes, Musicals and Westerns: Batman Begins Limited Edition Gift Set, Batman Anthology (probably all the existing Batman films, and probably on Blu-Ray), How the West Was Won Ultimate Collector’s Edition and Special Edition (and on Blu-Ray and HD-DVD), Errol Flynn Westerns, Western Classics Collection. On the musical side is Classic Musicals From the Dream Factory Volume 3 (Hit the Deck, Kismet, Deep in My Heart, Broadway Melody of 1936/ Broadway Melody of 1938, Nancy Goes to Rio/ Two Weeks with Love). Q4: Horror/ Sci-Fi and Holiday: There will be a new classic DVD horror collection starring Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre among others. Also coming is the Warner Bros. Holiday Collection and A Christmas Story Ultimate Collector’s Edition. Warner’s is also doing a direct to video label called Raw Feed, debuting a black comedy/ horror Otis at an upcoming film festival. We saw a preview of Otis and it looks like great B-Movie fun! While not explicitly stated above, I’m assuming that many of these titles will make it onto BD or both formats depending on when they’re released. I’ve noticed most all of the day-and-date titles are now being shuffled around, with the HD-DVD’s being kicked back up to three weeks after the SD-DVD and BD’s come out. Warner’s silence on BD that night is not surprising as I imagine their BD plans are still very fluid at this point. Some of the titles have two features on one SD disc, and Warner’s claims to be doing very well with titles packaged together, even with two on one disc. Also, the “Ultimate Collector’s Editions” of Blade Runner and the Harry Potter pictures generated over $20 million during the holiday period so we’re going to be seeing more of these in the next year. Warren Beatty At this point in the presentation, Baker introduced one of the special guests of the evening, and in walked Warren Beatty. Beatty had to stop and joke with Time Magazine critic Richard Schickel (more on him in a minute), and then proceed to tell us he only had a short amount of time as he was off to vote. He began by telling us his love of the home video market and how it would have helped him as a young actor to be more aware of such noted directors as Jean Renoir. When Beatty tells you a story, you may forget just what a long career he’s had, but as soon as he starts dropping names like Rita Hayworth and Clifford Odette, you snap to attention. Beatty being Beatty, he noticed the previous introductions of the Best Buy and Amazon reps, two cute blondes, and made sure he had his picture taken with them. As quickly as he dashed in, he was out again, leaving Baker to tell us he hoped we weren’t disappointed with Beatty as the original guest, Clint Eastwood, was busy that night. Warner historian George Feltenstein came up next to introduce the highlight of Warner’s 85th Anniversary Celebration: You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story, a new five hour documentary by Time Magazine’s Senior Film Critic, Richard Schickel. Schickel has combed through the Warner vaults and interviewed hundreds of actors and film makers to reflect on Warner’s illustrious history. The documentary will be aired in three parts on PBS in partnership with American Masters in September of 2008. Richard Schickel. But there were still more announcements made this night! More than 50 movies from Warner’s vast library are being restored for their release this year including: All This and Heaven, Too, The Beast with Five Fingers, Black Legion, Brother Orchid, Deception, Flamingo Road, Gold Diggers of 1937, Inside Daisy Clover, Kid Galahad, Lady Killer, The Mayor of Hell, Night Nurse, None but the Brave, Pete Kelly’s Blues, San Antonio, Thank Your Lucky Stars, Three on a Match, Virginia City, and Watch on the Rhine. New special editions of favorites such as: Cool Hand Luke, Gypsy, Risky Business and Splendor in the Grass. There will be other new to DVD titles and sets to be announced later in the year. A few other titles that were notable were also discussed. These titles will go into moratorium soon to be re-introduced in HD in 2009: Gone with the Wind, Woodstock, The Wizard of Oz and North by Northwest. As Bill Hunt and I talked about later, its titles like these that will help to drive people to HD. Director McG and Richard Schickel. Warner’s also provided some other guests to the function: Nancy Sinatra, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Tina Sinatra and director McG. The Sinatra’s really didn’t seem to know what to do there and quickly left. McG hung out for quite a while as we pestered him with questions about his upcoming Terminator picture and TV’s Chuck, for which he’s the executive producer. The Sinatras. This was my first time to one of these big time press events, and I hope I get to do some more. I want to thank Ronnee Sass, Karen Penhale and the folks of Carl Samrock Public Relations for the fine time, and Mr. Hunt for the introductions. While this is a huge and ambitious group of releases, there still seems to be plenty of surprises coming in 2008 from Warners! Thanks to Alex Berliner©Berliner Studio/BEImages for the pictures.