Warners set for anniversary releases

Digs through vault in celebration of 85th

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."

Last week, the anniversary campaign touched down at the Festival de Cannes. Warner Home Video held at 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 narrated the documentary. The full five-hour docu 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 critic George Perry.

Eastwood -- who was in Cannes to promote his newest film, "Changeling" -- also introduced a beach screening of "Dirty Harry," which is being reissued by Warner on 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 though the character he introduced in the film 38 years ago has a lot more hair than Eastwood 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 vintage Warner Bros. films screened at Cannes. Other films shown to festival audiences, on 10 consecutive nights, include "What's Up, Doc," "Enter the Dragon," "Blazing Saddles," "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" and "The Matrix" -- all coming to DVD and, in many cases, Blu-ray, 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."

Announced in February, the Warner campaign 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 of the MGM's "How the West Was Won," all slotted for third-quarter release, followed in the fourth quarter by horror and holiday collections, 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 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."