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Warner Shuttering Warner Premiere Direct-to-Video Unit

13 Aug, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Warner Bros. announced it is closing its direct-to-video unit, Warner Premiere, citing ongoing declines in the disc retail business.

The shuttering will affect a single-digit number of employees — including Eva Davis, EVP and GM of Warner Premiere — all of whom are in the process of being relocated elsewhere within the studio, according to a source.

Bowed in 2006, the “Premiere” unit enabled the studio to launch straight-to-retail lower-budget originals and sequels without a theatrical release. With home entertainment shifting to rental, the market for packaged-media retail has waned.

Indeed, Warner Premiere’s latest projects included securing the rights to develop a Web series for the futuristic video game Hawken, digital series Mortal Kombat: Legacy and Aim High. The unit’s most recent disc releases included Free Willy: Escape from Pirate's Cove (2010), Ace Ventura Jr. — Pet Detective (2009) and The Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning (2007).

Warner Premiere has also been involved with the rollout of “H+,” the Brian Singer-produced online series now on YouTube via Warner Bros. Digital Distribution.

Warner said future digital content would be folded into Warner Bros. Digital Distribution, with Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Home Video continuing to produce and release animated films, such as new entries in the “Scooby-Doo,” “Tom and Jerry” and “DC Universe” franchises, among others.

“Given the continuing decline in the direct-to-video film market and shifting business models in the production of digital series, the decision was made to close Warner Premiere,” the studio said in a statement. “The division will continue and complete production on its remaining film and digital series projects into the fall.”

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