WarnerMedia has quietly returned Oscar-winning Gone With the Wind back to subscription streaming platform HBO Max after a two-week hiatus to address the movie’s alleged racism in the wake of social unrest involving Black Lives Matter and other issues.
WarnerMedia said the return of the 1939 classic to Max includes two sidebar videos explaining the historical context of the original motion picture starring Clark Cable, Vivien Leigh, Hattie McDaniel (the first African-American performer to win an Oscar) and Olivia de Havilland, who is still alive at age 103.
The first video features WarnerMedia’s Turner Classic Movies (TCM) host Jacqueline Stewart outlining the merits of the movie and discussing why it should be preserved and watched in its entirety. The second video includes a panel discussion, “The Complicated Legacy of Gone With the Wind,” moderated by film historian Donald Bogle at the TCM Classic Film Festival in April 2019.
“The film’s treatment of this world through a lens of nostalgia denies the horrors of slavery, as well as its legacies of racial inequality,” Stewart says in the video. “Watching ‘Gone With the Wind’ can be uncomfortable, even painful. Still, it is important that classic Hollywood films are available to us in their original form for viewing and discussion.”
Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog took the No. 1 spot on the NPD VideoScan First Alert chart, which tracks combined DVD and Blu-ray Disc unit sales, and the dedicated Blu-ray Disc chart the week ended June 13.
It’s the video game adaptation’s fourth-consecutive turn atop the charts, the first title to achieve a month at No. 1 since Sony Pictures’ Venom at the end of 2018 and beginning of 2019.
But the big surprise of the week was the surge experienced by 1939’s Gone With the Wind, distributed on disc by Warner Bros. The Oscar-winning classic, which has been the subject of criticisms for its handling of racially sensitive subject matter — slavery during the Civil War — and was very publicly removed from the HBO Max streaming service, which promised to return it with disclaimers and companion videos to provide some historical context for the film.
The publicity surrounding the film, however, seems to be fueling a newly formed adage of the modern collector — namely to own your favorite films and TV shows on physical media and watch them whenever you want, lest you become subjected to the whims of a digital retailer or streaming service that can pull them down at any time.
Gone With the Wind climbed to No. 2 on the overall disc charts for the week, and almost hit the top spot, selling 98% as many copies on disc as Sonic. With 34% of its sales coming from the Blu-ray Disc format, Gone With the Wind was No. 5 on the Blu-ray Disc sales chart. Many of the disc sales no doubt came from Walmart, which re-released catalog editions of the movie with a new slipcover — which promptly sold out at most stores once the HBO Max news hit. Most of the title’s listings at Amazon are not from the online store directly but from third-party resellers not likely to be tracked by the VideoScan service.
The week’s top newcomer was Universal’s The Hunt, the controversial political allegory about wealthy left-wing elites hunting right-wingers for sport. It debuted at No. 3 on the overall disc sales chart, selling 90% as many copies as Sonic, and was No. 2 on the Blu-ray chart, with 51% of its sales coming from the HD format.
The Hunt earned $5.8 million during a theatrical run shortened by the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns.
Holding the No. 4 spot on the overall disc chart and climbing to No. 3 on the Blu-ray chart was Warner’s Birds of Prey in its fifth week on shelves.
The No. 5 overall title and No. 4 Blu-ray was Disney’s Onward.
In the wake of HBO Max pulling the film from its streaming service, Gone With the Wind has become the hottest title of the home video aftermarket.
By midday Friday, June 12, Gone With the Wind discs occupied the top four spots of Amazon’s list of best-sellers in the movies and TV category, as well as the No. 12 spot.
All of the copies are not offered directly from Amazon, but from third-party sellers using Amazon’s Marketplace service. Indeed, used and new DVD and Blu-ray copies of the film have been popping up on eBay in the $60 to $70 range, particularly a special Walmart re-release of the 70th anniversary edition in a new slipcover (which had an in-store price of $5 for the DVD and $7.50 for the Blu-ray). Used VHS copies of the film can be had for around five to 10 bucks.
The 1939 film made headlines this week when it was removed from HBO Max amid global anti-racism protests, after 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley criticized the film for romanticizing the pro-slave Confederacy and suggested temporarily removing it. HBO Max announced the film would return at some point accompanied by disclaimers and programming to put the film in its proper historical context.
On Amazon, the No. 1 and No. 4 seller both appear to be the same 70th anniversary DVD released by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in 2009. One copy is listed from $133.99, the other from $82.95. The same edition is listed at $7.99 on Best Buy’s website but is sold out.
The version at No. 2 appears to be a U.K./Irish import of a 2014 75th anniversary Blu-ray starting at $35.99, while No. 3 is the U.S.-released four-disc 75th anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo pack starting at $34.99, the most-recent anniversary edition released by Warner.
No. 12 is the 2009 Blu-ray, with several listings asking for around just over $100 with shipping included.
The film is also listed as sold out at the Barnes & Noble and Walmart websites. A search for the film at Target.com doesn’t bring up any results.
June 11, Mill Creek Entertainment’s movieSpree digital movie platform sent out a promotional email touting the availability on the service of the 1994 miniseries Scarlett, an adaptation of the novel that serves as a sequel to Gone With the Wind. Mill Creek’s movieSpree is selling the digital edition of the miniseries for $6.99. Scarlett was first released on DVD by Artisan in 2001, while Mill Creek has been selling it on DVD since 2017.
Interestingly, the controversy over Gone With the Wind may have boosted other similarly themed programming. The No. 16 Amazon seller on Friday was Warner’s 2011 DVD boxed set of North and South, a collection of miniseries from 1985, 1986 and 1994 about friends who find themselves on the opposite sides of the U.S. Civil War.
Amazon’s No. 30 seller was a DVD bundle of the first three seasons of “The Dukes of Hazzard,” also from Warner. The 1978-85 series has been labeled as racially problematic in recent years because the iconic 1969 Dodge Charger featured on the show is called the General Lee and sports a Confederate battle flag on its roof. TV Land dropped reruns of the series from its schedule in 2015 owing to the show’s use of the flag. (The 2005 film version of Dukes of Hazzard spoofed the potential awkwardness of displaying the banner in a racially diverse state such as Georgia, where the show is set.)
Several DVD collections of Nickelodeon’s animated series “Paw Patrol” also appear on the Amazon best-seller list. The show, which depicts a group of rescue dogs as representing different emergency services, has reportedly been targeted by “Defund the Police” activists for being too pro-police. The most-recent DVD compilation was released June 2.
HBO Max late June 9 quietly removed the Oscar-winning classic Gone With the Wind from the catalog of films available on the newly launched subscription streaming service.
The 1939 epic, based on the bestselling novel by Margaret Mitchell, depicts the plight of Southern white plantation owners during and after the U.S. Civil War. Its removal comes amid global anti-racism protests that have led Hollywood studios to reexamine the cultural depictions available through their platforms. The Paramount Network earlier in the day canceled the long-running reality TV series “Cops,” which originally premiered in 1989.
On Monday, June 8, Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley penned an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in which he criticized Gone With the Wind for romanticizing the Confederacy and suggested WarnerMedia-owned HBO Max temporarily remove the film from its library. He recommended it return after a time accompanied with programs putting the film into a proper historical context, or at the very least label calling attention to the notion that the film was a product of its time.
Disney+, for example, often includes in the descriptions of some of its older films, such as Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp, that they “may contain outdated cultural depictions.”
At the 12th Academy Awards, Gone With the Wind won eight Oscars out of 13 nominations and received two additional honorary awards for its technical achievements and use of color. Among its wins were for Best Picture, Best Actress for Vivien Leigh and Best Supporting Actress for Hattie McDaniel, who became the first African-American to win an Academy Award.
However, McDaniel — who played the chief house servant to Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara — had not been invited to the film’s gala Atlanta premiere, nor was she allowed to sit with her co-stars at the 1940 Oscars ceremony.
Accounting for inflation, Gone With the Wind remains the highest-grossing film in history with $3.7 billion in adjusted earnings.
Originally produced by David O. Selznick with financial assistance from MGM, Gone With the Wind was eventually bought out by MGM, which continued to re-release the film every decade for the next 50 years. It was purchased with the rest of the MGM library in 1986 by Turner Entertainment, which in turn was acquired by Warner Bros. in 1996.
Warner subsequently made Gone With the Wind a staple of its home entertainment library, with frequent anniversary releases of the film on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray Disc every five years, often in elaborate gift sets.
Update 6/10/20:A spokesperson for HBO Max told CNN, another WarnerMedia company, that the film would eventually return to the service, unedited, but “with a discussion of its historical context and a denouncement of those very depictions.”