Netflix and Warner Bros. keeping obscure films alive

For obscure film buffs like me, the fact that NetFlix is streaming long lost movies, and the major studios are burning them to order for fans, is a godsend.

In the latest issue of Shock Cinema magazine, one of the few movie publications still around, editor Steve Puchalski recently wrote about the joys of video on demand, especially streaming obscure movies. 

Back in the day, titles like Leo the Last, Rolling Thunder, and Deadhead Miles were hard to find in any format, but Puchalski now says, “Netflix is adding rare, obscure films faster than I could possibly watch them. I never though I’d see oddball titles distributed through a mainstream company, much less streamed straight into your home. For longtime film-fanatics like myself, it’s a real treat.”


Tim Lucas, editor of Video Watchdog magazine, couldn’t agree more: “I think it’s a great thing that studios are opening their vaults to the individual consumer this way. In a sense, these disc-on-demand services are an acknowledgement that there are serious needs not being met by standard DVD marketing.”

So is this why are Netflix and the major studios have moved towards releasing rarer titles? Netflix spokesperson Steve Swasey says, “We found over time more and more Netflix members have gravitated to catalog, independent film, foreign films, and TV shows because with Netflix you can select what you want, not settle on what’s available.

“Over time, more than 70% of DVD rentals at Netflix were not new releases,” Swasey continues. 

”Netflix came up with the idea of having everything that’s available on DVD, and with our personalization technology we can recommend movies to you that we know you’re gonna love. They might not be the hottest, latest new release, but a great movie from 1972 is still a great movie.”

Swasey says the response has been “the three words we love to hear: I Love Netflix! The reason people keep staying with Netflix and keep coming back to us, is we get great movies and TV shows that often times they didn’t know about.”

Warner Brothers’ DVD on demand service was in the works since 2006. George Feltenstein, Senior Vice President of Theatrical Catalog Marketing, was originally in charge of re-packaging and re-releasing rare movie soundtracks. 

Jim Wuthrich, President of International Home Video and Digital Distribution at Warners, wanted to apply the same business model to DVD. 

“With our library as huge as it is, it gave us an opportunity to have the most robust classic release schedule of any studio, and be able to market these titles that wouldn’t have life at retail any other way,” Feltenstein says.

Because it was a cumbersome and difficult process to put it all together, Warner DVD on Demand finally launched in 2009 with 150 titles. 

With today’s audiences, access and instant gratification are a top priority, but Feltenstein has also discovered that contrary to what many are saying, “People actually want to own physical product. People want to have a disc on the shelf with really nice packaging so they can own it. We’re seeing our business strengthen in this era when people think there’s less interest in physical media or older things.”

The Warner Archive collection can be accessed here and Sony’s Screen Classics by request here.