Classic Hollywood: Want to catch a classic flick? Try streaming it

Billy Gray, Jane Wyatt, Robert Young, Lauren Chapin and Elinor Donahue in an episode of "Father Knows Best" from May 1956.
(NBC Television / Getty Images)

Want to catch the third season of the award-winning “Orange Is the New Black”? It just began streaming on Netflix.

Missed episodes of your favorite TV series last season? You can catch up with most of the shows before fall on Hulu.

But what if you’d rather stream episodes of “I Love Lucy”? Or watch a classic Humphrey Bogart film on your iPad or on Roku?



Most streaming sites offer vintage films and TV series along the contemporary titles, and some cater specifically to the niche Classic Hollywood audience

Warner Archive Instant ( has been streaming for more than two years and offers at any given time some 400 to 500 feature films and hundreds of TV programming options.

“There are collectors and people who are interested in having permanent copies of things, then there are people who will say, ‘I want to watch this, but I don’t know if I want to buy this,’” said George Feltenstein, senior vice president of theatrical catalog marketing for Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. “This gives people an option.”

Warner Archive Instant began with a smattering of titles from Warner Archive Collection, the on-demand series that features movies and TV shows from such sources as Warner Bros., Turner Entertainment, HBO and Allied Artists. The offerings have continued to build. There are obscure titles from Warner Home Video library and TV series like the short-lived 1976-77 Danny Thomas show on NBC, “The Practice.”

“There’s a deliberate attempt on our part to stay away from the familiar,” Feltenstein said. “We never wanted ‘Casablanca’ or ‘King Kong’ or ‘Gone With the Wind,’ the things that you might find on another service. There are still occasional films in our service that are fairly well known, like ‘The Music Man,’ but the emphasis on is the rare and hard-to-find. We are trying to cater to a wide group of tastes within a somewhat limited audience.”


Pre-Code films and film noirs are the most popular genres on the service, as are episodes of the ABC detective series “77 Sunset Strip” (1958-64) and “Hawaiian Eye” (1959-63).

The latter aren’t out on DVD because expensive music clearances make them cost-prohibitive to release. Warner Archive Instant offers what it calls the best of these series and features episodes that don’t have clearance issues.

The service is $9.99 a month or $7.08 a month if you subscribe for an entire year.

Shout! Factory TV ( is free and advertiser supported. The service showcases films and TV series offered on DVD from Shout! Factory, and the mix is eclectic. Vintage TV series include “Route 66” (1960-64) and “Dennis the Menace” (1959-63), and art-house fare includes Werner Herzog’s 1979 “Nosferatu the Vampyre” and John Cassavetes’ 1968 indie drama “Faces.”

“We launched the website and on Roku in February,” said Gene Pao, vice president of digital for Shout! Factory. “We have an app that is in development for IOS and Android. Our plan is really to offer as many ways to watch the content as we possibly can.”

Shout! Factory went the ad-supported route to encourage people to explore the content, said Garson Foos, co-founder and president.

“Down the road we will move to a subscription service,” Foos said. “We wanted to stake our claim and get our feet wet in the digital channel area and start to see how things are trending and further refine and define who we are. We like to think we are the curators of great content.”


The 1954-60 comedy series “Father Knows Best,” the 1988-99 comedy “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” and the 1999-2004 animated Adult Swim series “Home Movies” are among the most popular on the service.

In August, Shout! Factory TV will stream a new original series, “Backlot,” composed of material shot for bonus content on its DVDs.

“We hope to do around six episodes a month,” Pao said.

Flicker Alley, the boutique DVD and Blu-ray company that has released such titles as “Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies” and “This Is Cinerama,” got into the streaming business two years ago and is partnered with Vimeo. Users can rent such titles as the 1914 Chaplin classic “Tillie’s Punctured Romance” and D.W. Griffith’s 1920 “Way Down East” at for $1.95 to $4.95 for one month.

“We are exploring all platforms now,” said operations manager Josh Morrison.

The restored 1902 color version of Georges Méliès’ “A Trip to the Moon” recently joined the Netflix lineup.

Flicker Alley, Morrison said, is “always trying to broaden the scope of our audience. We know that a lot of younger college students are choosing streaming to consume these types of films. We want to try and reach them. When they switched to Vimeo we did seen an uptick in visitors. We know that we do have customers of all ages.”


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