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Warner Showcases Catalog at Cannes

29 May, 2008 By: Thomas K. Arnold

(L-R): Warner Home Video International president Philippe Cardon, Clint Eastwood, Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders and film critic Richard Schickel.

Warner Bros.' 85th anniversary celebration continues to rev up DVD catalog sales for the studio's home entertainment division.

The campaign kicked off in March with an elaborate new “ultimate collector's edition” of Bonnie and Clyde on both standard DVD and Blu-ray Disc. By the time it's over at the end of this year, the studio expects to generate an additional $100 million in consumer spending, just on catalog titles included in the campaign, according to Warner Home Video president Ron Sanders.

“Our libraries are so essential for the continued success of DVD,” Sanders said. “The studio's 85th anniversary gives us the perfect opportunity to reissue some of our most memorable films, in new packaging and, in many cases, with new extras. And the success we've had so far, less than three months into the campaign, indicates consumers are still excited to revisit some of their favorite films from the past.”

The anniversary campaign touched down at the Cannes Film Festival. Warner Home Video held a black-tie screening at the Palais for the first two hours of You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story, a specially commissioned documentary from film critic Richard Schickel. The screening was accompanied by a gala and a press conference. All three events were attended by Sanders, Schickel and Clint Eastwood, who executive produced and narrates the documentary. The full five-hour doc will be broadcast on PBS in September over three nights in partnership with PBS' “American Masters” series. It will be issued on DVD that month as well, along with a 550-page companion book written by Schickel and fellow film critic George Perry.

Eastwood, who had come to Cannes to promote his newest film, The Changeling, also personally introduced a beach screening of Dirty Harry, which is being reissued by Warner June 3 in a boxed set that contains all five “Dirty Harry” movies. Eastwood was welcomed by a standing ovation from the overflow crowd and remarked that while the character he introduced in the film 38 years ago has a lot more hair than he does today, “it doesn't feel like it was that long ago.”

During the press conference, when asked by a journalist to recall his favorite Dirty Harry scene, Eastwood slipped back into character and uttered the classic line, “You gotta ask yourself, kid — do you feel lucky?” The press responded with appreciative laughter and applause.

Dirty Harry was one of 10 classic Warner Bros. films screened at Cannes. Other films shown to festival audiences on 10 consecutive nights include What's Up, Doc, Enter the Dragon, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Blazing Saddles and The Matrix — all coming to DVD and, in many cases, Blu-ray Disc, in restored editions as part of the 85th anniversary campaign.

“We're honored that Cannes gave our classic films such unprecedented support to celebrate Warner's 85th anniversary,” Sanders said. “It's a fantastic platform to generate interest in our documentary and video re-issues.”

The Warner anniversary campaign, announced in February, will see the release of more than 50 restored classics as part of nine themed collections. Bonnie and Clyde was part of the first wave of releases, which focused on gangster films and Oscar winners. Next came Frank Sinatra movies and the Dirty Harry collection.

Still to come: sets of superhero films, musicals and Westerns, including three editions (special, “ultimate collector's” and Blu-ray Disc) of the epic MGM Western How the West Was Won, all slotted for third-quarter release, followed in the fourth quarter by horror and holiday collections, the latter including an “ultimate collector's edition” of A Christmas Story.“We have the single largest library of any Hollywood studio,” Sanders said, “and we're constantly picking films we feel are worthy of being introduced to a new generation of fans.”

Indeed, of the 6,800 films in Warner's library, only about 1,400 have been released so far on DVD.

“There's always something new, something we maybe haven't thought of,” Sanders said. “And this anniversary campaign gives us a great opportunity to really dig into our vaults.”

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