Warner Bros. - Success Through Technology

Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
April 7th, 2012

Warner Bros. is a classic example of the early 20th century American immigrant success story. Four Russian Jewish immigrant brothers with a complex surname (Wonskolaser) that they Americanized to Warner turned themselves from successful small businessmen to world leaders by becoming early adopters of new technology. The then-revolutionary technology that the Warner Brothers pioneered was nothing other than the talking motion picture, or a motion picture with a synchronized audio soundtrack.

The name of the film that would change the fortunes of the four Warner brothers, Albert, Sam, Harry and Jack, and catapult the then-fledgling California film industry into its continuing era of worldwide pre-eminence, was The Jazz Singer. It was released in 1927, two years after the brothers realized the potential of the prototype sound technology that had been developed by Western Electric. At the time of their adoption of sound technology, the Warner brothers operated studios in both New York and California, and they installed the sound equipment in their New York studio.

Until the advent of sound, the Warner brothers had been successful in producing and distributing motion pictures, starting with their first forays into the motion picture world as roving projectionists in 1903 and continuing with successful motion picture productions in California that included major hits from 1918 onward. However, the Warner brothers needed their own chain of theaters to properly distribute their movies. As the pioneers in sound technology, they were able to purchase a theater chain known as Stanley Company of America, along with its interest in a major studio called First National Pictures. First National Pictures had a state-of-the art studio in Burbank, California, and after acquiring their partial interest in 1928, they purchased the remainder of the shares of the studio later that year.

Cognizant as always of the power of new technology, the Warner brothers brought their newly acquired Burbank studio up to the very highest standards. Most of the improvements that they made to the studio, which became the foundation of today's Warner Bros. studio in Burbank, centered on sound technology. As a result, Warner Bros. became the leading producer of sound films, establishing itself at the helm of making the types of films that it pioneered. Warner Bros. was never content to rest on its technological laurels or its previous successes. It turned out success after success, including classic movies that are still enjoyed by the descendants of their first fans. In 1955, the firm once again saw an opportunity in new entertainment technology, and it once again took a lead in producing content for that technology.

This time, the technology was television. While Warner Bros. was not the first to produce television programs, it was the first to produce a dramatic serial rather than short comedy films. This first serial, a Western-themed program called Cheyenne, would give rise to many other dramatically themed Warner Bros. television serials. Warner Bros., by then out of Warner family hands due to the advanced age and subsequent passing of its founding brothers, then went on to develop the mini-series, based on popular books of the 1970s and 1980s such as Roots and The Color Purple.

Warner Bros. retained its leading position in the movie industry as well, conquering foreign markets by bringing the products of its Burbank studios to movie fans throughout the world. Fans abroad were given the opportunity of seeing Warner films in Warner's own theaters, which it developed and then sold to local operators who continued their relationship with Warner Bros.

Today, Warner Bros. is part of Time Warner, a leading multinational communications firm with interests in news broadcasting and publishing as well as entertainment. Following in the path set by it for its founders, Warner Bros. continues to look toward technology as a way of entering new markets and cementing its lead in its present markets.