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Classic TV on DVD's Fast Track

28 Feb, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Is classic TV the next big thing in the booming market for television shows and series on DVD?

Some industry experts think so. Image Entertainment is rolling out all five seasons of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in complete-season packages. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has “Lost in Space,” Paramount has “I Love Lucy” and “The Honeymooners,” and BCI Eclipse continues to score big with low-priced compilations.

Now, Warner Home Video has announced an ambitious five-year initiative that calls for about 30 vintage TV series, mostly Westerns and dramas like “Maverick,” “77 Sunset Strip” and “F Troop,” to come out on DVD over the next five years. The studio kicked off its catalog-mining endeavors with the recent release of the complete first season of “Gilligan's Island,” the slapstick 1960s sitcom Warner research shows has 99 percent awareness among DVD households.

“Back in the old days, when there were three networks, everyone watched these shows,” said Mike Saksa, SVP of marketing for Warner Home Video. “And the same consumer who watched these shows is the heavy DVD consumer of today.”

MGM Home Entertainment also is combing through its vaults for classic TV shows to release on DVD. Amy Zwagerman, director of library marketing, said the ball began rolling in January with the release of The Best of Mr. Ed and Green Acres Season One.

The two shows were picked to lead the charge after MGM executives monitored Internet chat rooms and fan sites and conducted consumer research. Other MGM programs that scored high, and may be headed for DVD release as well, include “My Mother the Car,” “The Patty Duke Show” and “Seahunt.”

The stars of these old TV shows are just as jazzed as studio executives.

“I have a DVD player, but I can't work it yet,” said 84-year-old Alan Young, who played Wilbur Post on “Mr. Ed.”

“Of course, I just learned to work the electric toothbrush,” he added, laughing. “But, seriously, I'm going to have someone come out and help me out with it.

“I've seen some of the shows on syndication, but I understand the DVD is just terrific -- the show's been cleaned up nicely, and I just can't wait to see it.”

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