Film at 11
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"Film at 11" is an idiom from television news broadcasting, where the viewer is informed that video footage of a breaking news story will be screened later that evening. 11 o'clock is the traditional timeslot for late evening local news broadcasts in the Eastern and Pacific time zones of the United States. Television news gathering originally involved crews using 16 mm film which would be processed at the station, and had to be edited before it could be aired. The time taken for this process meant that the pictures of an early evening event would only be available in time for the late newscast.
The purpose of these "Film at 11" promotions was usually to oversensationalize the story so that a fearful public would tune in and increase the program's ratings. This is a later interpretation of the idiom, as news broadcasts were not counted in ratings during the time 16mm film was used in newsgathering and hence promotions typically took the form of "newsflashes" or "special reports" which simply conveyed the facts of the story.
The phrase itself became obsolete with the advent of videotape as the medium of choice for news reporting.
The phrase entered popular culture in the 1970s, often describing ordinary or mundane events with a sarcastic implication that these events were somehow earth-shattering, such as "Clean up in aisle 3, film at 11." In a more general (but less common) usage, "Film at 11" means that more information will follow in the future.
1977's The Kentucky Fried Movie turned the phrase into a running gag. The movie opens with a "newscaster" announcing "The popcorn you're eating has been pissed in. Film at 11." The WKRP in Cincinnati episode, "Turkey's Away" had DJ Doctor Johnny Fever trying to salvage a promotion for the radio station gone disastrously awry with a nonchalant announcement, "For those of you who've just tuned in, the Pinedale Shopping Mall has just been bombed with live turkeys. Film at eleven."
In the online game US Government Simulation, some players have made a running gag of the idiom, using it as a sarcastic remark when referring to unsurprising news stories.
- Kovalchik, Kara (25 March 2014). The Origins of 8 Nearly Obsolete Phrases, mentalflosss
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