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Movie & TV Classics In An Instant

by Leonard Maltin
May 5, 2014 12:00 AM
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Warner Archive Instant

I’ve just tried out Warner Archive Instant—and I’m hooked. Mind you, I am a technological klutz, and I’ve had trouble dealing with streaming and downloading. But (full disclosure) Warner wanted me to sample their program, and installed a Roku box on my large-screen TV. With no trouble at all, I found myself browsing their library and sampling a variety of vintage movies and TV series. It couldn’t be easier or more fun.

Warner Archive Instant

Aside from the speed—films arrive on screen in mere seconds—the most impressive aspect of this library is the availability of older films in razor-sharp, high-definition copies. There may still be specks and artifacts in the original material, but the clarity and resolution are mind-boggling. When I ordered Wheeler and Woolsey in Cracked Nuts (because that’s the kind of guy I am) the RKO Radio logo knocked my eyes out even before the movie began. All high-definition titles are clearly labeled, and you never know what you’ll find in this category: a Johnny Mack Brown B-western, The Curse of the Cat People or the Hal Roach feature Pick a Star.

Warner Archive Instant

In the television category I’ve had fun sampling episodes of 77 Sunset Strip and The Adventures of Superman, among others. New titles are added every week from Warners’ endless inventory (which includes the libraries of Warner Bros., MGM, RKO, Monogram, and Allied Artists, among others).

Best of all, you can feel free to browse as much as you like, because the monthly fee of $9.99 covers unlimited usage.

Like many other collectors, I’m not ready to abandon my DVD and Blu-ray library, especially the titles that include valuable bonus features. But for sheer viewing fun, Warner Instant is irresistible.

Now I have to push my boundaries by seeing what else I can do with that Roku box!

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More: Journal, Warner Archives, streaming video

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  • Dave Kirwan | May 6, 2014 9:11 AMReply

    Late to the party, Leonard! WA Instant has been doing a bang-up job for months, and their few technical glitches seem to have been more or less resolved. Of course, ready access to four star classics is wonderful, but WA Instant is mostly about all those other old movies... forgotten and overlooked films that might not warrant a DVD purchase but are worth a peek from the curious. And if you're a completist on a given star or director (or cinematographer, or art director or whatever) this is the place to track down the stuff usually left under the sofa cushions.

  • Norm | May 5, 2014 10:14 PMReply

    It seems to be a pretty good deal, let's hope they keep it going long enough to enjoy some longevity, unlike most things these days, that don't stick around it would be very refreshing that a venue like this could...

  • Ken | May 5, 2014 9:03 PMReply

    I love WA Instant! And I use your Movieguide to decide which one to watch next.

  • KC | May 5, 2014 7:41 PMReply

    Pub d Hub is a fun channel on Roku. The quality of the films isn't very good, but there's always a few quirky finds to enjoy. I love the experimental shorts.

  • Bob | May 5, 2014 4:42 PMReply

    Time-Warner needs to make this service available on more platforms, for instance Apple TV or/and the various blu-ray players with streaming features built in. Yeah I know it's available on computers too but I'm not a fan of watching full length flicks on my computer. I need my 60" screen for a theater like experience.

    Another Time-Warner related thought…when will Turner Classic Movies start running movies in true HD. They of course have an HD version but it seems like almost all upconverted SD material. Only big difference from the SD version (admittedly an improvement!) is that you get the wide screen movies in original aspect ratio without zooming in. I would love to see more of their movies, major & minor titles, in true HD like you get them on Warner Archive Instant!

  • Tony Caruana | May 5, 2014 5:59 PM

    Re TCM, I get the channel here in the UK in HD and it makes no difference about aspect ratios.
    This afternoon they showed John Ford's THE LONG GREY LINE and during the opening credits it was shown in it's proper cinemascope ratio, 2.35:1 but then zoomed in to 16:9., which I find deeply annoying.
    I guess it depends on where they source their material.

  • Lee | May 5, 2014 1:17 PMReply

    People often talk about Hollywood's Golden Age. I understand that there were just as many crappy movies back then as there are now. It's just that we don't remember them. Case in point: from 1962 everyone remembers "To Kill a Mockingbird", but no one remembers the idiotic "40 Pounds of Trouble". It's a safe bet that in 50 years, from 2013 everyone will remember "Dallas Buyers Club" but no one will remember any of the superhero movies.

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