Service Review – Warner Archive Instant
I hate cable. I hate paying a premium for sports channels that no one in my house ever watches. HATE IT. I’d cut the cord and find alternate sources for the few things I watch, if it wasn’t for one channel that I cannot live without: Turner Classic Movies. Sure, I can rent a lot of their programming, but they have a lot of movies that are not currently in print, so unless I want to give up their infrequent showings of Dodsworth, I’m going to have to wait until something better comes along. But what if there was another option? When I heard that Warner was rolling out their own streaming movie service, Warner Archive Instant, I got super excited. Maybe this would be the last piece in my cable-cutting puzzle.
Warner Archive Instant has a two-week free trial, so I signed up and started browsing. They have the rights to the catalog for Warner Bros., MGM, RKO, New Line, Monogram, Allied Artists, Lorimar, and other studios. When I first joined in May, they had a couple hundred films or so, and they’ve been steadily adding to their library, although not in a predictable way. Supposedly films will cycle off the service, but I have yet to see any movies marked with “leaving soon,” so I’m not sure what the lifespan of a film will actually be. There’s a large selection of well-known films, with a lot of harder-to-find material rounding thing out. I’ve already seen a lot of the more popular stuff, so I’ve mostly been focusing on new-to-me films. I’ve watched 21 films on the service so far. Here are a few highlights:
Two on a Guillotine (1965): Stars Connie Stevens and a surprisingly hot Dean Jones. A magician’s daughter inherits her father’s crazy and dangerous mansion.
The Girl in an Empty Grave (1977) and Deadly Game (1977): Two made-for-television movies starring Andy Griffith as a small-town sheriff who solves murders. The missing link between The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock.
Salem’s Lot (1979): Tobe Hooper-directed miniseries based on Stephen King’s novel.
Mad Love (The Hands of Orlac) (1935): Peter Lorre is in love. Nothing good usually comes from that.
City Beneath the Sea (1971): Irwin Allen directed this wonderfully awful disaster movie that takes place under the sea. In the future. I will not lie; I have seen all the Irwin Allen movies on this service. I love a disaster.
Night Watch (1973): Elizabeth Taylor is Cuh-ray-zee.
The Terminal Man (1974): Slow moving, super weird, and kinda awesome adaptation of Michael Crichton’s novel.
I’ve been working my way through the horror and science fiction sections, and have found a lot to love, although I wish they would add more. There’s a lot of pre-Code goodness and enough fun stuff to keep me busy for a while. There are curated lists—“After Midnight,” “Forbidden Hollywood,” “Guilty Pleasures,” and “Incendiary Cinema”—but I prefer to just browse around on my own.
So how does this work? Warner Archive Instant will stream on a PC or a Mac, or through a Roku to your television. I have only ever used the Roku interface, so that is all I can comment on. (I have used the browse and search functions online, but that is about it.) Is it ready for prime time? I am afraid not. The selection is small, but as long as there is still stuff on there I want to watch, I am good to go. No, my problems have to do with the functionality of the service, or the lack thereof. When I first joined, there was no search functionality on the Roku interface, and happily that has recently been added. You can only search by movie title—which kind of sucks when looking for Irwin Allen disaster movies—but I can go online and search using other parameters. Unfortunately, there is no queuing functionality, so I can’t add my search results to a list, and then go to the Roku and watch. I have to search again by movie name or browse through the categories.
When I first go to the Warner home page, it takes FOREVER to load. And if I don’t start my movie quick enough, it will start loading again, and then kick me out to the Roku main page. If I start a movie, and then take too long of a break, it will kick me out. After trying to load. FOREVER. Sometimes, when I restart a movie, it won’t remember where I left off. There are a lot of connection errors and I’ve gotten something called a playback error. Some days everything seems to go smoothly. Other days, I have to have the patience of a saint. It is a testament to how much I like their selection that I am still with this service. At $9.99 per month, it’s more expensive than a lot of other streaming options, without nearly as much functionality or reliability. (I have good Internet and don’t have these issues with any of the other streaming services I use.) I plan on keeping Warner Archive Instant for a while longer in the hopes that it gets better. It’s not a cable killer, but it has been a nice, if at times crazy frustrating, addition to my household’s entertainment options.
Selection Grade: B
Functionality Grade: C