Touring Warner Bros. with Warner Archive

When I was younger my family would haunt the aisles of Suncoast Video snatching up classic films to watch and enjoy. Then came the rise of digital and our beloved Suncoast went belly up. Without our supplier we were relegated to the few classics that made it to DVD – they just weren’t as prolific as they were on VHS. Then one day I learned of Warner Archive and I’ve never been the same since.

Warner Archive is a division of Warner Bros. specializing in titles that aren’t necessarily popular enough for wide release. They are sold as made to order DVD’s of remastered films and televisions shows. Because of this business model thousands and thousands of titles are available. Looking at the new releases alone I see a bunch of titles I’d like from the final season of one of my favorite shows, Getting On, to five early films of one of my favorite stars, Robert Montgomery. Warner Archive is my own little slice of heaven. Because I love it so I regularly listen to the podcast and follow the team on social media. A couple of weeks ago I was perusing my twitter feed when I came across an offer of a private tour of Warner Bros. for those attending (and tweeting about) the TCM Film Fest. Why, I fit that bill perfectly! So I got in touch with them and a few days later I found myself on the Warner Bros. lot.

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Now, full disclosure, I’ve been on the lot before. Over the years I’ve taken the public studio tour. A well choreographed tram tour it offers an overview of the studio operations and largely focuses on the latest blockbusters and television shows. For someone who prefers the classics it wasn’t quite was I was looking for. But this tour, led by Warner Archives’ own Matt Patterson, was totally different. There was no fancy tram or pre-written script and instead Matt walked us all over the lot on a personalized three hour tour (which coincidentally included the lagoon where Gilligan’s Island was filmed).

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Which just so happened to be drained on our visit. Side note: did anyone else have a crush on the Professor? That man sure knew how to make use of a coconut.

My favorite part of any film studio is the back lot. How can you not love fake city streets? It’s what the magic of film making is all about. On the public tour we would drive through and the tour guide would mention briefly that several classic films were shot there. Shannon and I would be super excited while everyone else in the tram would have blank faces. Needless to say, we had no chance to explore the area. Well, this time we did just that.

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“One for Angels With Dirty Faces, please!”

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“Don’t shoot! I’m innocent I tell ya!”

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“Hmm…where does this lead?”

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After wandering through the streets of “New York” and “Paris” we ended up in River City/Stars Hollow.

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Who knew that Marian the Librarian and Lorelai Gilmore inhabited the same area?

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Without any townsfolk around it felt like we stumbled across some weird ghost town where the walls were made of plywood and the light poles had no electricity.

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Time to cue Rod Serling.

Of course, there’s more to the studio than back lots. There’s also several sound stages including Stage 16, at one time the largest in the world.

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In the contract era, the most famous stars on the lot had their own bungalows. Today, they’re executive offices and we had a chance to swing by and check them out.

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I can just picture Bette Davis and Jimmy Cagney wandering these sidewalks.

All too soon, we’d wandered the whole lot and it was time to bid adieu to Mr. Patterson and Warner Bros. It was a fantastic day and I won’t soon forget it.

 

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That’s all folks!

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