Warner Bros. is experimenting with an online video-streaming service, but don't expect to use it to view recent WB titles like The Dark Knight Rises or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Instead, the studio will reach way back into dusty vaults to stream classic movies and forgotten titles from Warner Bros and MGM, as well as RKO, Allied Artists, and other long-lost studios.
The oddly-named Warner Archive Instant, an extension of Warner's Archive Collection on DVD and Blu-ray, offers both TV shows and movies ranging from the earliest days of cinema in the 1920s through to a smattering of not-so-choice cuts from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
For $10 per month, you can use Warner Archive Instant to watch all the Tarzan, bad science fiction, and (more controversial) blaxploitation films you can stand. Featured titles include Soylent Green starring Charlton Heston, Cleopatra Jones starring Tamara Dobson, Adventures of Superman episodes 1-13 starring George Reeves, The Candidate starring Robert Redford, and Gilligan's Island Season 1.
Warner Bros. says it will rotate the selection for Archive Instant on a regular basis, and most films will be available for several months before going back into the vault.
If you have trouble figuring out where to start, the service offers a showcase featuring categories such as "After Midnight" for cheesy horror films, and "Guilty Pleasures" for cinema that's so bad, it's good. Clearly, Warner realizes it's selling to a niche audience with this service.
What's the quality?
Some of the Archive Instant offerings are available as 1080p streams, but high-definition is currently restricted to the Roku set-top box and unavailable through the web version for PC and Mac. Similar to Netflix, you'll need Microsoft Silverlight in your browser for the service to work.
Warner Archive Instant is an interesting idea as a way to capitalize on older, and often low-quality or little known, titles. But it will be interesting to see if a catalog featuring titles like Disorderlies, The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission, and The Mayor of Hell can survive on its own.
Or is Warner's Archive collection just a little too far down the so-called "long tail" and will it be destined to be rolled into a larger service similar to the way the Criterion Collectionis featured on Hulu.
Regardless, I'll be waiting eagerly for the remastered edit ofPac-Man: The Complete Second Season to show up online.