One of the companies that helped build Hollywood and the film industry is celebrating a century of innovation and storytelling.
Warner Bros. Studios was incorporated on April 4, 1923 by the four brothers Warner: Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack.
The Jewish immigrants came to North America from Poland and were among the first to see the untapped potential of moving pictures. They established Warner Bros. Studio and built the studio from the ground up to become one of history’s most influential hubs for art and entertainment.
From “Casablanca” and the “Wizard of Oz” to Batman and Bugs Bunny, it’s impossible to look at the world of cinema without coming across one of Warner Bros.’ beloved properties.
The film studio has been celebrating its centennial for the last several months and will continue to do so throughout the year. The 100th anniversary campaign is entitled “Celebrate Every Story,” just as the Warner brothers themselves began doing 100 years ago when the company was founded.
In celebration of 100 years, Warner Bros. has produced special programming on HBO Max and Turner Classic Movies, released special DVD and Blu-ray bundles for home entertainment, and launched new merchandise and collectibles for diehard fans. There’s even been a new exhibit added to the world-famous Warner Bros. Studio Tour.
But the focal point of the centennial celebration is an array of unique experiences that celebrate the magic of film.
One of those experiences is the Candlelight concert series, which is taking place throughout the year at 100 venues across the globe. On Thursday, Warner Bros. welcomed film lovers onto the studio lot in Burbank for the public premiere of Candlelight: 100 Years of Warner Bros. The concert gives fans the chance to celebrate and reminisce about film history and the lasting legacy of Hollywood’s third-oldest film studio.
The 65-minute concert at the Steven J. Ross Theater featured the flicker of hundreds of candles and a string quartet performance of iconic songs featured in Warner Bros. films and television, including “The Wizard of Oz,” “Purple Rain,” “Friends,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and both the original and the 2018 remake of “A Star is Born.”
The Candlelight experience is a special production orchestrated by Fever, the culture and entertainment event platform. The concert series offers intimate classical performances by candlelight at some of the most breathtaking venues on earth.
The Warner Bros. 100th anniversary concert premiered in Los Angeles, and the other 99 will take place at famous concert venues across North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, giving thousands of people the opportunity to experience the same show with strangers around the world, whose only unifying commonality is a love of film and music.
Isabel Solano is the global vice president of life experiences at Fever. She says the global concert series is part of Fever’s mission to “democratize access to culture and entertainment.”
“I think part of the thing that makes this very unique is the fact that many of these celebrations or iconic events, they tend to happen in L.A. or New York, and I think probably it’s one of the very first times in which this is going to really go to everywhere,” Solano said. “And when I mean everywhere, I mean, like people in Alicante, which is a medium-sized city in Spain, are going to be listening and living the exact same experience.”
The same concert will also be shown in places like Boston, London, Paris, Berlin and Sao Paulo.
Solano said Fever was honored to be entrusted by Warner Bros. to manage and arrange the 100th anniversary concert series. The biggest challenge, she says, is to ensure the consistency and quality of each performance.
“We’ve got local teams in all the cities that ensure that the quality is great, and that that ambience that we create is very intimate, and that is so important for us,” Solano said.
It’s rare that the public is invited to visit the Steven J. Ross Theater, which is located on the Warner Bros. Studio Lot, about 100 yards away from the iconic “Friends” couch and fountain.
Peter van Roden, senior vice president of global themed entertainment for Warner Bros. Discovery, said the theater is mostly used for internal events and premieres. Ticketed events at the theater are few and far between, but the 100th anniversary of the legendary film studio seemed like the perfect opportunity to invite the public into the seldom-seen venue.
Prior to Thursday’s concert, Warner Bros. privately celebrated the centennial at the famous theater. A member of Warner royalty was on-hand for that event.
“Harry Warner’s granddaughter [was] on the stage with David Zaslav talking to us about her memories of walking around the lot. It was really moving,” van Roden said.
It’s a feeling that van Roden shares with Harry Warner’s progeny; a feeling that each day on the Warner Bros. lot, getting to tell stories and entertain fans, is a blessing.
“We work in these wonderful brands, we work in this incredible library, we work for this historic company, but you’re also just doing work every day,” he said. “All the headaches and joys and discouragement of everyday work and then you walk on this lot … it never, ever gets old. I literally get chills every single time I come onto this lot and walk down this street. And just you can feel the history.”
So how do you pare down 100 years of filmmaking into an hourlong concert that both encompasses the history of Warner Bros., while being faithful to the artists and playing songs that people actually want to hear? It was a challenge, van Roden said.
“It’s fairly daunting,” he said. “What they went back to was a combination of, I think, iconic songs, and iconic musical themes, but also does it match up with iconic films? And I think they tried to tell a story. I think it’s really well done through sort of the beginning … and all the way through today.”
Thursday’s musical set was performed by the Orchid Quartet, a Los Angeles-based string quartet that has performed for film scores and toured with the likes of Ariana Grande and Adele.
They served as both performers and emcees, guiding the audience through the inception of Warner Bros. to the films of today, with anecdotes and reflection about the composers of each iconic track.
For van Roden and other execs and creatives at Warner Bros., 100 years is a milestone that has been a looming presence for a while.
“We all sort of have been living with that for a number of years thinking that it’s coming,” van Roden said with a laugh. “It’s amazing, you know, it’s historic, and if you if you don’t get sort of moved and blown away by that, something’s wrong.”
The Orchid Quartet performed in front of two sold out crowds in Los Angeles. The show will now move on to other cities and regions across the globe, unifying film and music lovers in a way that only cinema can.
If you missed out on the limited-time Warner Bros. concert, you can still experience one of Fever’s themed candlelight concerts. The event company produces candlelight concerts across the globe that celebrate the work of other artists, both classical and contemporary.