For many people in Hollywood, including luminaries like Steven Spielberg, Turner Classic Movies is not a cable channel. It is an extension of his identity.
And it took a tremendous beating this week.
On Tuesday, the network, known as TCM, removed five of its most senior executives through a mix of buyouts and pink slips. Among the dead were general manager Pola Changnon; Charlie Tabesh, the channel’s lead programmer; Genevieve McGillicuddy, who ran the annual TCM Film Festival; Anne Wilson, a production executive; and Dexter Feder, a marketer.
Network owner Warner Bros. Discovery promised that viewers would see little or no change on TCM. The channel will be free of advertisements. “We are fully committed to this business, the TCM brand and its purpose of protecting and celebrating culture-defining films,” Kathleen Finch, president and chief content officer of the company’s home networks group, wrote in a memo shared with news outlets. Committed to.” ,
But Chanel loyalists responded to the cut with hellfire, interpreting it as further marginalization of an art form and a personal attack.
Superheroes have taken over our cinema halls. Our film studios have become victims of corporate consolidation. Our streaming service was cluttered for Filmstruck, silent-era gems and noir classics. And now you’re blasting TCM, our last happy place, where Orson Welles is mercifully alive and well and “Key Largo” (1948) still counts as a summer blockbuster?
using a profanity, ryan reynolds rang the alarm On Twitter, he told his 21 million followers that TCM was an important place in his life and called the channel “a hallowed corner of film history – and a living, breathing library for the whole of art.” Mark Harris, a journalist and film historian, is called deduction “Purification of a doomed genius.” Actor and writer Patton Oswalt took aim at David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery. bashing them on twitter And saying, “Can’t you just leave it alone?”
Mr. Zaslav regularly describes himself as a huge fan of classic cinema. He keeps TCM playing in his office, where he proudly works from the same desk used by Jack Warner, one of the studio’s founders. In recent months, Mr. Zaslav, who took over at Warner Bros. last year, has been celebrating the studio’s 100th anniversary.
Is it just an act?
As of late Wednesday, the three Hollywood heavyweights – Mr. Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson – had issued an unusual joint statement saying they had spoken to Mr. Zaslav and were “very pleased and encouraged.”
“We are committed to working together to ensure the continuation of this cultural touchstone that we all value,” the statement said. “Turner Classic Movies has always been much more than a channel. It is indeed a priceless resource of cinema, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And although it has never been a financial juggernaut, it has always been a profitable endeavor since its inception.
The directors said, “We’ve spent time talking to David, both separately and together, and it’s clear that TCM and classic cinema are very important to him.”
The filmmakers said that Mr. Zaslav had, in fact, reached out to them privately at the beginning of the week to discuss restructuring TCM. The directors said, “We understand the pressures and realities of a large corporation such as WBD, of which TCM is a dynamic part.” “Our primary objective is to ensure that TCM’s programming remains untouched and protected.”
In business terms, TCM is a financial footnote to Warner Bros. Discovery, an entertainment conglomerate with approximately 37,000 employees worldwide and $34 billion in annual revenue. But like every other media giant, Mr. Zaslav is grappling with a no-win situation: Cable television, which has owned long-standing media conglomerates, is in terminal decline, which means operating costs must go down as well. Budget cuts have affected many divisions of the company.
According to a recent PwC report, fewer than 50 million households will pay for cable or satellite service by 2027, down from 64 million today and 100 million seven years ago.
So belt-tightening on TCM was more about preservation than destruction, at least in Warner Bros. Discovery’s view. Ben Mankiewicz, Jacqueline Stewart and other TCM hosts will continue in their roles, according to a spokesperson. TCM will continue to pay for access to classic films from all studios; There are no plans to limit the channel to Warner Bros. films. TCM will also continue to be featured on Max, the company’s streaming service, as a “Brand Hub”.
Cartoon Network president Michael Ovelein will oversee TCM going forward, among other channels. He is based in Atlanta. TCM was earlier part of their portfolio on an interim basis.
“Michael shares our passion for classic films and believes strongly in TCM’s essential role in preserving and exposing iconic films to the next generation of cinematographers,” Ms. Finch said in her memo.
Mr. Ouwelen would probably be wise to remember that, for devotees of TCM, the network’s programming is less entertainment and more “the stuff dreams are made of.”