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|WCI Home Video (1978-1980)|
|Jim Wuthrich (president)|
|Parent||Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group|
(Warner Bros. Entertainment)
Warner Home Video is the home video distribution division of Warner Bros., a subsidiary of WarnerMedia. It was founded in 1978 as WCI Home Video (for Warner Communications, Inc.). The company launched in the United States with twenty films on Betamax and VHS videocassettes in late 1979. The company later expanded its line to include additional titles throughout 1979 and 1980.
Some early releases were time-compressed in order to save tape time and money and to compensate for long-playing cassettes being unavailable in the early days of home video. One example was 1978's Superman in which the film was released in a 127-minute format, compared to its 143-minute theatrical release. In addition, early film-to-video transfers of films from WCI were noted for being in poor quality, compared to modern day video releases. By the end of 1980, the quality of transfers had improved.
The company was noted in its early days for releases in big cardboard boxes that opened like a book, colored in black, with cast credits on the inside. Some early releases under the Warner Home Video name also used this design. In early 1981, the company switched to plastic clamshell cases, with a multicolor design, with a few releases using the cardboard boxes and the multicolor designs, and to cardboard sleeves in 1985 for packaging, eliminating plastic cases by 1986. In the mid 1990s, the studio revived the use of plastic cases for a handful of releases from Warner Bros. Family Entertainment.
Warner Bros. began to branch out into the videodisc market, licensing titles to MCA DiscoVision and RCA's SelectaVision videodisc formats, allowing both companies to market and distribute the films under their labels. By 1985, Warner was releasing material under their own label in both formats. Titles from Warner Home Video were and continue to be distributed and manufactured by Roadshow Home Video worldwide except for Australia and New Zealand because of its film counterpart's films released by Village Roadshow.
Warner also experimented with the "rental-only" market for videos, a method also used by 20th Century Fox for their first release of Star Wars in 1982. Two known films released in this manner were Superman II and Excalibur. Other films released for rental use include Dirty Harry, The Enforcer, Prince of the City, and Sharky's Machine.
In 1990, Warner Home Video acquired the worldwide home video rights to the MGM/UA catalog. The $125 million purchase was used to finance MGM/UA's acquisition by the Pathé Communications Corporation. The intended 12½-year-long deal was cut short in February 2000, with MGM paying Warner Bros. $225 million to regain video rights to a number of its films. In exchange, Warner Bros. gained full control over the video rights to MGM's pre-1986 library, an asset the studio acquired outright from Turner, but due to a pre-existing licensing deal with MGM, was expected to expire in 2001.
With the merger of Time Warner and Turner Broadcasting in 1996, Turner Home Entertainment was absorbed into WHV, with WHV inheriting THE's video lines, including a previous deal with PBS Home Video and Cartoon Network video titles. WHV also assumed responsibility for distributing the product of New Line Home Video (later renamed as New Line Home Entertainment), though New Line otherwise maintained autonomy until 2010 after New Line Cinema itself was absorbed into Warner Bros. WHV also eventually absorbed HBO Home Entertainment by the mid-2000s, after that division switched from mostly distributing third-party titles to HBO's own material.
On December 20, 1996, Warner Home Video was one of the first major American distributors for the then-new DVD format, by releasing the films Assassins, Blade Runner: Director's Cut, Eraser, and The Fugitive on DVD in Japan and on March 24, 1997 in the United States with Blade Runner also being a launch title for the region there. Warner executive Warren Lieberfarb is often seen as "the father of DVD". Lieberfarb's successor, Warner Executive James F. Cardwell was recognized in paving the way for WHV's strategic positioning in next generation technologies such as High Definition DVD, electronic sell-through and portable video. In 2003, Warner Home Video became the first home video releasing company to release movies only on DVD with no VHS equivalent.
On September 26, 2006, Warner Home Video became the first company to release a title in three formats on the same day and date with the home release of The Lake House on DVD, Blu-ray and HD DVD. With Paramount Home Entertainment switching from neutral in the high definition video camp to solely to HD DVD in September 2007, Warner Home Video was at the time the only major distributor to support both high definition formats, though this changed at the end of May 2008. From June 2008, Warner Home Video released new high definition content on Blu-ray only, becoming the last major Hollywood studio to drop HD DVD after Toshiba discontinued the HD DVD format.
Warner Home Video briefly owned New Line Home Entertainment after New Line was absorbed by Warner Bros. in 2008. In 2010, New Line Home Entertainment was then folded into Warner Home Video. Warner Home Video continues to use the NLHE logo on Blu-ray and DVD reprints on titles before Valentine's Day (2010).
In 2009, Warner Home Video introduced the Warner Archive Collection, which allows the public to order custom-made DVDs of rarely seen films and TV series from the Warner and Turner libraries. The films are also available as digital downloads. Warner Archive DVDs and downloads can be ordered online on Warner's website, on Amazon.com or Turner Classic Movies-affiliated DVD website Movies Unlimited. (Although Movies Unlimited sells these archive titles, it usually takes 2-3 months before the DVD is available for order after Warner releases it on their website.)
In October 2012, Paramount Home Media Distribution and Warner Home Video signed a distribution deal, allowing Warner Bros. to gain U.S. and Canadian DVD, Blu-ray, UltraViolet, Flixster, and DVD-manufacturing-on-demand distribution rights to over 600 Paramount Pictures titles as well as new Paramount titles. The deal went into effect on January 1, 2013, but it expired in 2017.
The company currently releases titles from the film and television library of Warner Bros. as well as programs from other WarnerMedia companies, including WarnerMedia Entertainment, WarnerMedia News & Sports, New Line Cinema, DC Comics, Hanna-Barbera, and Turner Entertainment Co. Warner Home Video also releases titles from Samuel Goldwyn Productions,Peanuts Worldwide,Lego, Viz Media, and WWE.
From July 1, 2000 to 2007, Warner Home Video served as distributor of BBC Video releases in North America; starting in 2007, the BBC began self-distributing its titles in North America. Warner Home Video formerly distributed titles from PBS Home Video and PBS Kids until 2004, Big Idea Productions from 2002 to 2004,LeapFrog from 2003 to 2005 (when video distribution moved to Lionsgate),The Wiggles from 2007 until late 2011 (when video distribution moved to NCircle Entertainment),Sesame Street from 2010 to 2018 (when distribution moved to Shout! Factory),American Girl,, National Geographic Society in the U.S., and product from the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL.
In the UK, Warner Home Video formerly distributed most of the DVD releases of Icon Home Entertainment, and also distributed Icon releases in Australia. In Canada, it previously distributed releases from Seville Pictures and Equinox Films. In the Netherlands and France, Warner Home Video formerly distributed most new releases from Independent Films, through the RTL Group's M6 subsidiary.
Warner Home Video also released World Championship Wrestling events and compilations throughout the 1990s in various territories until it was dismantled in 2001.
In 1996, Warner Home Video had reached a deal on releasing Twister, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Maverick, The Fugitive and three Batman films in China through Shenzen Advanced Science Enterprise Group.
In Poland, Warner Home Video served as distributor of most Warner Bros. and Turner Entertainment movies on VHS and DVD from 1993-2007, before being closed. Since 2007, Warner Bros.' home video distribution in Poland is being handled by local distributor Galapagos Films, Inc.
In Russia, Warner Home Video served as distributor of most Varus Video on VHS (1994-1999) and Most-Video on VHS and DVD (2000-2002), later Premier Video Film on DVD (2002-2005) (with Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures, Miramax Films (1996-2001) and 20th Century Fox (1996-2000) movies on VHS and DVD, before being closed, later Warner Bros., Paramount and Universal served as distributor of most Universal Pictures Rus, in late 2010, CP-Digital (former subsidiary Central Partnership) and Warner Home Video signed a distribution deal, allowing Warner Bros. to gain Russia on DVD, Blu-ray, distribution rights as well as new Warner titles. The deal came into effect as of January 1, 2011.