The Movie Channel (TMC) is an American premium cable television network owned by Showtime Networks, Inc., a subsidiary of CBS Corporation, which, true to its name, shows only movies. TMC provides theatrically released feature films and independent films, special behind-the-scenes features and softcore adult erotica to subscribers.
The Movie Channel also packages the Eastern and Pacific feeds of the primary service and TMC Xtra together, allowing viewers a second chance to watch the same movie three hours earlier/later depending on their geographic location.
Later in the decade, it was acquired by Warner Communications, and eventually brought into the Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment joint venture. The network was initially offered on Warner Cable systems, and later on Warner-Amex's experimental QUBE interactive service. In January 1979, Star Channel was uplinked to satellite, and became a national service. On December 11979, the network took on its current name.
The Movie Channel was also the first premium channel to show R-rated films during the day. Parent network Showtime also airs R-rated films during the day, as does Cinemax, Encore and Starz. HBO does not air any R-rated films on its primary channel until after 8:00pm (Eastern Time).
In 1981, The Movie Channel was one of the first channels to broadcast movies in Stereo. As the standard for stereo television broadcast was a few years away, cable operators simulcast the stereo as an FM radio signal.
In 1983, Warner-Amex merged The Movie Channel with Viacom's Showtime to form Showtime Networks. In 1985, Viacom acquired WASEC's cable network assets, including their share of The Movie Channel. Ironically, Warner would acquire rivals HBO and Cinemax a few years later, when it merged with Time Inc.
In 1997, The Movie Channel began an extensive rebranding effort. For a brief period, The Movie Channel experimented with premiering its own original movies. The channel also began airing TMC Movie Marathons, which featured three or four movies selected by the channel set around a specific theme. As part of these marathons, TMC would also air Double Vision Weekend, a marathon of movies airing for one weekend each month with two movies featuring the same actor. In addition, TMC also started running TMC Fun Facts (later known as TMC Reel Stuff) featuring behind-the-scenes facts about movies as well as celebrity trivia. TMC also inserted fun facts about movies the channel promoted that were scheduled to air on the channel.
The Movie Channel was originally an individual channel, although part of the Showtime Networks family. Before cable systems dropped The Movie Channel (along with Showtime and rivals Cinemax, Encore and Starz) from their basic packages, relegating it to their digital cable packages, TMC had a high basic cable coverage rate. However, there were several cable providers in areas with smaller populations that didn't offer TMC as an add-on to their basic service. In addition, now-defunct satellite provider Primestar never carried The Movie Channel on their service. In most of these cases, TMC was never carried as a pay service on said cable and satellite providers, though Showtime was.
Around the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, Showtime began offering all of its channels as part of the Showtime Unlimited package and many cable systems, with the exception of Comcast, along with satellite providers DirecTV and Dish Network stopped advertising The Movie Channel as a separate network from Showtime and since Showtime Networks are only available on digital cable, many cable systems will not offer The Movie Channel to non-Showtime subscribers.
In 1999, The Movie Channel launched a multiplex service, The Movie Channel 2 (renamed The Movie Channel Xtra in 2001). TMC has the least multiplex services of any of the major premium channels, which is a probable reason as to why the channel is not part of a separate package from Showtime.
In 2001, The Movie Channel added TMC First Run Movies -- movies premiering on the channel that never were released theatrically or on home video or DVD. TMC also began to airing softcore erotica late at night like parent network Showtime and its competitor Cinemax, which started the trend on US cable networks as a way to better compete in the premium channel race.
The channel also started running a two-minute sketch segment titled The Pitch which starred Sean Smith, a character actor who has appeared in several TV series and movies, as a movie exec who listens as people try to pitch him movie ideas. The movies pitched are famous movies such as Cliffhanger, The Terminator, etc.
Movie opens on the channel also have to deal with the behind the scenes goings on in movies. All movie opens airing on TMC since 2001, feature a faux scene from a movie being made. As the camera zooms out, the "crew" comes into the scene.
In 2005, Viacom and CBS announced its intention to split up only six years after Viacom bought the network and its television assets. The newly formed CBS Corporation got the broadcasting elements, Paramount Television's production operations (renamed CBS Paramount Television), Viacom Outdoor advertising (renamed CBS Outdoor), Showtime Networks, Simon & Schuster and Paramount Parks, which the company later sold, while Viacom kept Paramount Pictures, MTV Networks, BET, and Famous Music.
Up until the 2006 revamp, The Movie Channel's official website was unusual in it was one of only a few (if not the only) cable networks whose website had no special features whatsoever. The channel's website consisted mainly of a programming schedule of films to air on the channel a month in advance. This changed when the channel revamped itself in 2006, when special features were added such as an online store, a video player and previews of films airing on the channel.
On May 32006, The Movie Channel rebranded itself once again, without the signature ball. The tagline is now The Movie Channel—Movies For Movie Lovers. TMC Xtra was also in the rebranding process as well.
By 1989, the channel was guided towards creating a series of internal campaigns to emphasize the seeming paradox of a contemporary network setting that programmed recent and classic movies. In the early 1990s, the channel began running a few different computer animated 10 second feature presentation opens/network identifications. One of them was of a the logo at the time, a rectangle with a face visible with the channel's name above and below it, changing facial expressions at the open of a curtain set to calliope-type music. Another open featured the logo rotating to the front profile in front of a gray background with the face also colored gray accompanied by a steady drumbeat. The logo would then "wink." In a longer open, set in a family living room, someone strikes a match about to set fire to a newspaper with the logo on it. Noticing it is in danger, the logo shoots lasers from its eyes and escapes experiencing numerous calamities and seeing unusual sights from the logo's point-of-view such as a close-up of dog's face, the logo almost getting run over by a toy train, etc. until it reaches the safety of a television screen, all set to Indiana Jones-style adventure music. Ironically, this logo would be replicated somewhat in May 2008, when WGN America introduced a new logo featuring a set of female eyes rimmed with green mascara.
During the late 1990s and early 2000s, The Movie Channel started running a wide variety of promos from a general movie trailer-type promo to including behind-the-scenes facts on the film. The channel still uses this technique today, although often in a more hybrid way. The channel also began using a unique way of telling viewers what movies were about to play next. It featured the announcer reading off that evening's main feature set to somewhat sophisticated graphics and the time it would be on while the information was displayed and music was played, this simple concept would be revised and rerevised many times over. This continues to be changed and updated.
By 1997, The Movie Channel adopted a very slick on-air look. The channel's slogan became "100% Pure Movies, 100% Pure Fun", and more predominantly used CGI graphics. The channel's announcer offered bold, brash, and entertaining voice-overs. The channel began using more simpler state-of-the-art graphics by 2001 and by 2006, they became similar in form to Nick at Nite's current graphics package.
Around the same time, The Movie Channel sought that much of its subscriber base owned VCRs as the device became more and more common during the 1980s. TMC began adding a weekly feature called "The Movie Channel's VCR Theater", which would air on early Wednesday mornings at 3:00AM ET. These films were movies the channel figured were worth recording so that their subscribers could watch them whenever they liked. By the late 1990s, TMC created a reworked version of "VCR Theater" called "TMC Overnight."
In 1997, following TMC's makeover, the channel began airing daily movie marathons, three (sometimes four) movies that were tied to a specific subject (such as "Ouch" for crime dramas or "Omar Goodness" for films that starred Omar Epps). In turn, the channel also launched "TMC Double Vision Weekends", which aired bi-monthly, that featured three different movies that star the same actor with each marathon changing after the previous one ended. "Double Vision Weekends" typically lasted for a longer portion of the day than a typical movie marathon (a typical TMC movie marathon lasts only during the afternoon/evening or from late afternoon to mid-evening).
The Movie Channel also sometimes plays a lot of classic movies from United Artists and Columbia Pictures, and some mid-to-late '90s movies from Sony Pictures Classics (whose parent Sony Pictures Entertainment shares pay-cable release rights with Starz, except for films produced by Revolution Studios and HBO).
The window between a film's initial release in theatres and its initial screening on Showtime and The Movie Channel is much larger than on HBO and Starz.
Usually films for which Showtime has rights will also run on The Movie Channel during its time of license.
In 1989, TMC changed its logo to feature a profile of a person's face with a pair of eyes and bridge of a nose visible, in a rectangle with the network's name in uppercase letters on two tilted lines on either side. One slogan the channel used during this time was "The Heart of Hollywood." The logo was changed again in 1997, with a new logo and the tagline "100% Pure Movies, 100% Pure Fun." Its logo featured a green ball with an acronym of the channel's name (in lowercase), usually shown either to the side of the channel's full name also in lowercase letters or on top of the name.
A similar logo was used when the channel rebranded itself in 2001, with the tagline "The Stuff Movies Are Made Of". This logo design featured the ball with TMC on it, surrouned with two lines on the corners of the ball. The word "Movie" was shown in bold. In 2006, TMC introduced a new logo borrowing certain elements from the 1992-1997 and 2001-2006 logos such as the typeface of the channel's name from the former and the usage of a bold type of the word "MOVIE" from the latter. The logo also features three green or blue crescent-like slivers on the top and bottom sides of the channel's name.