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Warner Unveils Aggressive Catalog Initiative for 2006

31 Jan, 2006 By: Thomas K. Arnold

Last fall's lavish The Wizard of Oz and King Kong DVD gift sets were only the beginning. After years of watching other studios blow out their libraries at a rapid clip, Warner Home Video this year is preparing a major catalog initiative that will see a record 200-plus titles hit the market, the vast majority appearing on DVD for the first time.

Classics also factor in Warner's plans for HD DVD, the first of two rival next-generation formats to come to market. They will arrive on high-def the same day Warner bows special-edition DVDs. Titles include The Maltese Falcon and The Forbidden Planet.

Warner's classic release slate also includes 52 collections, including Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart “signature collection” sets and a lavish 14-disc “Superman” set that features the famed “Richard Donner” cut of Superman II, up to 40% longer than the theatrical version. Donner was fired 70% into the shoot, and much of what he filmed has been locked away in the vaults. Newly restored footage includes an alternate opening in which Lois Lane suspects Clark Kent is the Man of Steel and then almost dies trying to prove it.

“The death of the DVD business has been greatly exaggerated,” said Jeff Baker, SVP and general manager of Warner's theatrical catalog unit.Baker notes that while Warner's overall theatrical catalog DVD sales slipped 3.5% in 2005, unit sales rose a healthy 11.4%. Baker blames price erosion at retail and vows more pricy special editions in 2006.

“The fact that unit sales were up speaks to the fact that consumers still have a robust appetite for catalog movies,” Baker said.

Internal research shows Warner with a 22% share of the theatrical catalog market.

Of the 6,600 theatrical films in Warner's library, just 1,200 have been released on DVD, compared to 3,100 on VHS.

Highlights of the initiative include a new line of budget-priced double features and DVD debuts of such classics as Baby Face, a collection of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz films, the 1962 Marlon Brando version of Mutiny on the Bounty and the racing classic Grande Prix.

Also, expect a single-disc, movie-only DVD of King Kong on March 28, when sources expect Universal to bow on DVD the film's big-budget Peter Jackson remake.

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