Rare film archives resurrected thanks to Warner Bros. and Netflix

In the first part of our report on Netflix and the major studios, we explored how obscure movies were being kept alive via streaming and individually burning DVDs.

In the second installment of our three-part series we talk with George Feltenstein of Warner Brothers, and Steve Swasey, spokesperson for Netflix, about how they started reviving obscure films.

But what’s the criteria for a movie to get added to the list, and where do they find what movies audiences demand?


As for the criteria for adding a movie to Netflix, Swasey says they won’t add a movie to the streaming catalog unless it reaches a certain level of queue demand. 

“We’re very scientific about it. If you’re an independent filmmaker, and have contacted Netflix with your movie, we have to see that it’s a seriously marketed film… You’ve entered it in film festivals, you have a website supporting it, there’s critical buzz, one or any of these factors have to be available for us to add it to the site.”

And especially with these kinds of titles, staying in touch with movie buffs about what they want to see is critical. 

Feltenstein says, “I read all the forums, all the web logs. The Internet is invaluable in getting a very clear picture of what consumers want. We put out a film called The Cyclops, a small little horror movie with Lon Chaney Jr. 

“We remastered it in hi-def, it looked great, but there were six seconds missing. We found out on Facebook, and within a week or two, we were able to find the original negative, get the footage that was missing, and send corrected copies to everyone who bought it. It’s crucial that people know how important quality is to us.”

When Columbia put out their own library of movies on demand, Feltenstein explains, “It was the highest form of flattery. They took every aspect of our business plan, down to using the same replication company. What surprised me is it took them as long as they did. I thought by Christmas of last year, every studio would be in this business. If you’re aggressive with your library, if you care about wanting to monetize it and please your shareholders by bringing incremental revenues to the company, it’s a really good thing.”

As for the future, “Access is going to expand,” Feltenstein confirms. “There will be more choices available to the consumer on how they can get their entertainment. People can get more from our library than they ever thought was possible. It’s like a key to our vault.”