The Time Warner Bros. Sketchily Killed An Entire Publishing House
Lately, we’ve all been hearing about some strange entertainment decisions coming out of Warner Bros. Having taken on debt thanks to a merger, the company’s been saving money by killing a bunch of projects that could cost more to market than they’d earn. We’re hearing about it because these movies and TV shows have fandoms who care. But this is hardly a new concept, parent companies suddenly pulling the plug on bits of entertainment that are wrapped up and ready to ship.
At the start of the ’70s, Warner Bros. had a publishing division called Warner Modular Publications, Inc. In 1973, Warner Bros. suddenly shut Warner Modular down. For some books that were all written and ready for audiences, this meant a sad fate. While Warner would still pass the manuscripts to other publishers if the contracts said they had to, the books still might end up with far fewer copies printed than planned and no promotion, which would cut off almost everyone from reading them.
So, that’s what we can report to you as fact about the end of Warner Modular. The really juicy part, however, and the way we heard about this story, surrounded the alleged reason Warner made this move. For that, as with so many things, we have to turn to Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky wrote a short book called Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact & Propaganda. It covered lots of controversial stuff about American action in Vietnam. Just a few years had passed since the New York Times had published excerpts from The Pentagon Papers and had had to defend their right to do so all the way to the Supreme Court, so if this book also contained leaked or classified info, that could complicate things for Warner.
The book contained no such stuff, only analysis and commentary, and editors had approved it. But according to Chomsky, higher-ups at Warner fretted about the book, objected to its angle even after conceding no legal issues existed, and tried to weasel out of the release they’d committed to. Finally, they closed the entire publishing house—so they could bury that one book, claimed Chomsky.
Even ignoring Chomsky’s claim about Warner’s motives, it’s disappointing that a company should ever bury a work whose rights they own. Luckily, with books at least, you can sometimes count on copies getting saved, distributed, and maybe preserved forever.
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Top image: Warner Bros.