Before the creation of TCM, quite a few titles from its vast library of movies were broadcast — with commercial interruptions — on Turner's TNT channel, along with Turner's controversial colorized versions of black-and-white classics such as The Maltese Falcon.
When TCM was created in 1994, however, colorization did not carry over to the new channel. As Gary R. Edgerton wrote in the winter 2000 issue of The Journal of Popular Film and Television, TCM immediately advertised itself in April 1994 "with the promise: 'uninterrupted, uncolorized and commercial-free!' Attitudes had evidently come full circle. Colorization was now unfashionable and unprofitable — even for Ted Turner and his colleagues at TBS."
In 1996, the Turner Broadcasting System merged with Time Warner. Not only did this put TCM and Warner Bros. under the same corporate umbrella, but it also gave TCM access to the post-1948 Warner Bros. library (which itself includes other acquired properties such as the Lorimar, Saul Zaentz, and National General Pictures libraries).
Besides MGM and United Artists releases, TCM also shows films under license from Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Productions and Columbia Pictures. Most pre-1950 Paramount releases are owned by EMKA, Ltd./NBC Universal Television Distribution, while Paramount (currently owned by Viacom) holds on to most of its post-1950 releases, which are handled for television by CBS Television Distribution. Columbia's output is owned by Sony through Sony Pictures Television, the films of 20th Century Fox (owned by the News Corporation), are handled for television by 20th Television, and Walt Disney Productions (owned by The Walt Disney Company) has their output handled for television by Disney-ABC Domestic Television.
As a result, viewers interested in tracing the career development of actresses like Barbara Stanwyck or Greta Garbo or actors like Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart have the unique ability to see most of the feature films made during their careers, from beginning to end. Unlike AMC or FMC, Turner Classic Movies presents many of its features in their original screen format (widescreen or full screen) whenever possible. (TCM considers the issue so important they occasionally run an informational short subject educating viewers as to why letterbox presentation of widescreen films is preferred, showing viewers just how much of the picture is missed when such a film is presented in the pan and scan format.) TCM also regularly presents widescreen presentations of films not available in the format on any home video release (one example being Columbia Pictures' "The Trouble with Angels" (1966)), indicating they have the clout to obtain their own widescreen masters of such films from studios.
Its programming season runs from March until the following February of each year when a retrospective of Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated movies is shown (this festival is called 31 Days of Oscar). TCM occasionally shows some classic 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios and Columbia Pictures movies, but they have to be licensed individually. Gaps between features are filled with theatrically released movie trailers and classic short subjects (from series such as The Passing Parade, Crime Does Not Pay, Pete Smith Specialties, Robert Benchley, etc.) as part of TCM's One Reel Wonders. Beginning 10 September 2007 some of the short films featured on TCM appeared on their online TCM Schedule at www.tcm.com. Critically acclaimed documentary films are frequently shown, along with limited-run television shows (such as reruns or new episodes of The Dick Cavett Show, Thursdays at 8 pm ET, during the Fall 2006 season.)
Although a vast majority of TCM's movies are classics from the 1930s-1960s (with silent movies and post-1970 movies being occasionally shown; among the most recent films shown on the network were 2001's Spirited Away, 2002's The Clay Bird and 2003's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), the network also airs original content, (mostly documentaries about classic movie personalities and particularly notable films). Most feature movies shown in prime time (8pm-3am Eastern Standard Time) are presented by film historian Robert Osborne, who has been with the network since its launch in 1994. More recently, movies shown during the daytime on weekends are presented by Ben Mankiewicz, talk radio host (The Young Turks), Herman Mankiewicz's grandson and great-nephew of Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
A TCM staple, The Essentials, is a weekly program on Saturdays at 8pm EST, spotlighting a specific movie and containing a special introduction and post-movie discussion. The spotlight movie is often replayed the following Sunday at 6 pm EST. The Essentials was originally hosted by director/producer/actor Rob Reiner, followed by fellow producer/film director/actors Sydney Pollack and Peter Bogdanovich. In May 2006, hosting duties were taken over by Robert Osborne and Molly Haskell. Carrie Fisher replaced Haskell when The Essentials returned for its new season in March 2007 following its annual "31 Days of Oscar" festival. Rose McGowan replaced Fisher for the 2008 season in March 2008 after the 2008 "31 Days" festival.
Each August, TCM suspends its regular schedule for a special "month of stars", featuring entire days devoted to a single star, offering movies and specials pertaining to the star of the day.
Sunday nights at midnight is Silent Sunday Nights, which features silent movies from the United States and abroad, usually in the latest restored version and often with new music scores. Silent Sunday Nights is occasionally pre-empted for other special programming.
In 2000, TCM launched the annual Young Composers Film Competition, inviting aspiring composers to participate in a judged competition. Grand prize has been the opportunity to score a restored, feature-length silent film, mentored by a well-known composer, with subsequent premiere of the new work on the TCM channel. As of 2006, films which have been rescored include Camille (1921) with Rudolph Valentino, two Lon Chaney films, Ace of Hearts (1921) and Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928), and Greta Garbo's The Temptress (1926).
In November 2004, perhaps in response to Cartoon Network's removal of classic cartoons, TCM began to broadcast a half-hour monthly (bi-weekly as of the fall of 2005) show entitled Cartoon Alley which featured cartoons from animation's Golden Age. Cartoon Alley has since been canceled.
In October 2006 the network premiered a new late-night series hosted by rocker/filmmaker Rob Zombie called "TCM Underground," which features a number of cult films personally selected by Zombie. Films in the series include Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959), Sisters (1973), Night of the Living Dead (1968), Bride of the Monster (1955), Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), and Electra Glide in Blue (1973).
In the summer of 2007, the network began a "Funday Night at the Movies", hosted by voice-over actor Tom Kenny (best known as the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants). This series of programming, which lasted throughout the summer, brought classic films such as The Wizard of Oz (1939), Sounder (1972), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Singin' in the Rain (1952), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) to a whole new generation of children and their families.
For the summer of 2008, TCM launched "Essentials Jr.", a youth-oriented version of its The Essentials weekly series hosted by actors Abigail Breslin and Chris O’Donnell, which included such family-themed films as National Velvet (1944), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Captains Courageous (1937), and Yours, Mine and Ours (1968), as well as more eclectic selections as Sherlock Jr. (1924), The Music Box (1932), Harvey (1950), 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), On the Town (1949), and The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956).
More recently, TCM has collaborated in boxed set DVD releases of previously unreleased films by noted actors, directors, or studios. The sets often include bonus discs including documentaries and shorts from the TCM library.
TCM is headquartered at the Techwood Campus in Atlanta, Georgia in Mid-town. TCM is available in many other countries around the world.
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