Turner Classic Movies is here to stay

In the wake of Turner Broadcasting’s merger with Time Warner, the future of Turner Classic Movies seemed precarious, but there are so many reasons why you should check out TCM before it’s too late.
Turner Classic Movies is here to stay

Cinephiles are familiar with the Criterion Collection, Letterboxd, and IMDb when it comes to curating films, new and old, and creating a space for people to talk about filmmaking. However, many are not familiar with another pillar in the film industry: Turner Classic Movies. 

Turner Classic Movies was made by television producer, media proprietor, and entrepreneur Ted Turner. Turner most notably founded CNN, the first 24-hour news broadcasting channel. Seven years later, he would buy Metro Goldwyn Mayer but would sell it back within a year due to concerns about debt. From this deal, Turner retained the rights to MGM’s library of films from up to 1986. Eight years later, he would launch TCM in Times Square on the anniversary of the first public movie showing in New York City. 

Since its launch in 1986, TCM has curated and preserved many old Hollywood films, putting them in an accessible manner for fans to watch. The TCM library is expansive, showing films as old as from the 1930s, to as recent as the 1980s. If you are looking for a channel with niche films from before Hollywood was obsessed with superheroes, this is the place for you. They have special screenings like “Silent Sunday Nights,” where they show films from the silent era on Sundays, and “Noir Alley,” where they show a Noir film at midnight on Saturday to lend to the mysterious nature of the films. TCM even has its own wine club where movie-inspired wines are curated for viewers to enjoy while watching their films. And if this hasn’t already impressed you, they also have a TCM Classic cruise, where passengers can enjoy good films and good company for five days as they travel the seas. 

Along with their collaborations with film festivals, TCM offers so much to cinema lovers and the general public, because they have something for everyone. However, the balance of the cinematic landscape has recently been placed in precarious hands. In 1996, Turner Broadcasting merged with Time Warner, making TCM a product under Warner Brothers Studios. This was great news at the time, because this meant TCM gained access to Warner Bros.’s library of films released after 1950. However, this merger is proving to be a problem in present times. The current CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, David Zaslav, terminated the TCM leadership including Charles Tablesh, a programer who had been with TCM for over 25 years, and made drastic budget restrictions. The gutting of the channel set off major alarms in the film industry, as the fate of TCM was up in the air. The fear of TCM fading away into obscurity brought filmmakers Steven Speilberg, Martin Scorsese, and Paul Thomas Anderson to the table to talk with Zaslav about the future of the channel and commit themselves to being involved in nurturing it. After the triple threat raised concerns, TCM brought back Tablesh to reassure those who were worried about TCM’s future. However, behind the face value attempts to get the public on his side, the channel was told to cut its budget by two-thirds. It’s clear that Warner Bros. Discovery has no real love for TCM.

The fact that three major directors took the time to consult Zaslav about TCM shows how much the small yet beloved channel means to people. TCM has a catalog that is unique not only because of its stature but because of its exclusiveness. No one else has the films TCM has the rights to; therefore if TCM were to be dismantled, we would lose thousands of classic films that are not available anywhere else, especially for free. TCM is the only channel that provides classic films on a program without ads, which is scarce to find these days, even in the age of streaming. 

While many great films are being made now that will go on to stand the test of time, there are countless films from before that do that as well. The only way we’d be able to see them is if we have TCM to show them to us. If you are an old Hollywood connoisseur, I would suggest checking out their website to see what they have to offer. And if you — or your parents, or grandparents — still happen to have cable, take a moment to see what their channel has to offer. You never know what gems you might find.

Image courtesy of Variety

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Kamiah Johnson, A&E Co-Editor
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