Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (formerly known as Warner Home Video and WCI Home Video and sometimes credited as Warner Home Entertainment) , is the home video distribution division of Warner Bros. Entertainment.
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 of the company's 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 Turner's video lines, including a previous deal with PBS Home Video and Cartoon Network video titles. 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 Bros. executive Warren Lieberfarb is often seen as "the father of DVD". Lieberfarb's successor, Warner Bros. 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.
In 2008, once its parent company became a unit of Warner Bros., New Line Home Entertainment was then folded into Warner Home Video. Warner Home Video, however, continued to use the NLHE logo on Blu-ray and DVD reprints on titles before Valentine's Day. But as of 2019, new releases of the said catalog use the Warner Bros. Home Entertainment logo.
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, and expired in 2017.
On January 14, 2020, Universal and Warner Home Video announced that they would partner on a 10-year multinational joint-venture, merging their physical operations in North America. Universal will distribute Warner Bros.' titles in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan; while Warners will distribute Universal's titles in the U.K., Italy and Benelux. On April 7, 2020, the European Commission approved the merger. The company was later named Studio Distribution Services, LLC.
The company currently releases titles from the film and television library of Warner Bros. as well as programs from other WarnerMedia companies, including WarnerMedia Studios & Networks, WarnerMedia News & Sports, HBO, New Line Cinema, DC Comics, Telepictures, Hanna-Barbera, and Turner Entertainment Co. Distribution is currently handled by Studio Distribution Services, LLC., a joint venture between WBHE and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
From July 1, 2000 to 2017, Warner Home Video served as distributor of BBC Video releases in North America. Starting in 2017, 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.
WBHE currently has worldwide distribution deals with Peanuts Worldwide, Lego, and MGM (since 2020, catalog titles and select new releases only, most new releases are handled by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, although both companies own Studio Distribution Services, LLC. via a joint venture).
Warner Home Video also released World Championship Wrestling events and compilations throughout the 1990s in various territories until it was dismantled in 2001.
Warner Home Video currently owns worldwide rights to a part of Hong Kong's Golden Harvest's catalog since 1998 after they sold the film library and distribution rights to Warner Bros. for US$25 million.
Alongside the announcement of the Warner Bros./Universal NA physical home media joint-venture, Warner Bros. announced that they would begin handling home video distribution of Universal titles in the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg in the first quarter of 2021, while Universal announced that they would begin handling home video distribution of Warner Bros. titles in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Japan in the third quarter of 2020.
As of 2020, there are no announcements on the Warner Bros./Universal distribution deals in the rest of Asia and the remaining territories.
In a small number of European countries in the late-90's, Warner Home Video distributed very early DVD releases of Buena Vista Home Entertainment products including Disney, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures movies. This soon ended when Buena Vista chose to enter the DVD market on their own.
In the UK, Warner Home Video formerly distributed most of the DVD releases of Icon Home Entertainment, and also distributed Icon releases in Australia. as well as titles from Le Studio Canal+'s catalog in the 1990s to the early 2000s through the Canal+ Image label.
Warner Home Video currently serves as the distributor for the pan-European distribution and international sales company Wild Bunch's Wild Side Video since 2012 in France, replacing Universal Studios Home Entertainment as its distributor as well as titles from RTL Group's M6 Video subsidiary and France Télévisions (until 2007 when distribution shifted to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment).
In Poland, Warner Home Video served as distributor of most Warner Bros. and Turner Entertainment movies on VHS and DVD from 1993 to 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.
In Spain, titles from Warner Home Video are distributed through 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment beginning December 2016 and since 2020 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment after its purchase of 20th Century Fox.
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 2005, Warner Home Video also operated a joint venture distribution unit in China with China Audio Video (CAV) known as CAV Warner Home Entertainment to distribute Warner Bros.' films along with Universal & Paramount titles in Region 6 DVD format in China.
In Japan, Warner Home Video had assumed Japanese home entertainment distribution of the Miramax catalog from 2012 to 2017. Warner Home Video also released individual films on a case-to-case basis in Japan, notably Grave of the Fireflies under a one-time deal with Studio Ghibli on April 22, 2005 as well as anime titles such as JoJo's Bizarre Adventure and Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma.
In Singapore, Warner Home Video, alongside Warner Bros.' content, also formerly served as the distributor of titles acquired, produced and/or distributed by Golden Village and Shaw Organisation beginning 1999. Since then, they started self-distributing their output. As of 2017, Poh Kim Corporation Pte. Ltd started handling distribution of WHV product in Singapore.
In Thailand, CVD International distributes Warner Home Video's product, along with titles produced and distributed by almost all American studios on VHS, VCD & DVD.
In Malaysia, Warner Home Video's output is distributed through Berjaya HVN Sdn. Bhd.
In the Philippines, Warner Home Video operated a subsidiary called Warner Home Video (Phils.) which distributed Warner material along with Solar Entertainment's acquired foreign titles since 2001. Since then, WHVPH closed down in 2009 and most titles are now distributed through Studio World.
In Indonesia, WHV titles, along with Universal, Paramount, Columbia, TriStar, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Disney, 20th Century, & Buena Vista titles are distributed through Vision Interprima Pictures.
In Australia, Warner Bros.' films and WHV output were distributed through Roadshow Entertainment, which also served as the Australian theatrical distributor of Warner Bros. films. However, Warner Bros. announced in September 2020 that its long-time distribution deal with Village Roadshow would end, with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment taking over as distributor beginning in 2021.