The Movie Channel
- This article is about the sister premium channel of Showtime. For the unrelated, defunct television channel in the United Kingdom, see The Movie Channel (UK). For the programming format of television channels specializing in movies, see movie channel. Not to be confused with the Canadian premium television service The Movie Network.
|The Movie Channel|
|Launched||April 1, 1973
(original launch, as Star Channel)
December 1, 1979
(relaunch, as The Movie Channel)
|Owned by||Showtime Networks
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)
|Slogan||Movies for Movie Lovers|
Spanish (via SAP audio track; some films may be broadcast in their native language and subtitled into English)
|Headquarters||New York City, New York|
|Formerly called||(Warner) Star Channel (1973–1979)|
|Sister channel(s)||Showtime, Flix,
|Timeshift service||The Movie Channel East,
The Movie Channel West,
The Movie Channel Xtra East,
The Movie Channel Xtra West
|DirecTV||The Movie Channel:
553 (east; HD/SD)
554 (west; SD)
TMC Xtra: 555 (HD)
TMC On Demand: 1553
|Dish Network||The Movie Channel:
327 (east; HD/SD)
329 (west; SD)
The Movie Channel Xtra:
328 (east; SD)
330 (west; SD)
|Available on most U.S. cable systems||Consult your local cable provider or program listings source for channel availability|
|Verizon FIOS||The Movie Channel:
East: 385 (SD), 885 (HD)
West: 386 (SD)
The Movie Channel Xtra:
East: 387 (SD), 887 (HD)
West: 388 (SD)
|AT&T U-verse||The Movie Channel:
East: 882 (SD), 1882 (HD)
West: 883 (SD), 1883 (HD)
The Movie Channel Xtra:
East: 884 (SD), 1884 (HD)
West: 885 (SD), 1885 (HD)
The Movie Channel (sometimes abbreviated as TMC) is an American premium cable and satellite television network that is owned by the Showtime Networks subsidiary of CBS Corporation. The network's programming mainly features first-run theatrically released and independently produced motion pictures, along with softcore adult erotica, and during promotional breaks between films, special behind-the-scenes features and movie trivia.
- 1 History
- 2 Channels
- 3 Programming
- 4 Branding
- 5 References
- 6 External links
Early history (1973–1979)
The Movie Channel traces its history to the development of Gridtronics, a pay television service which delivered videotaped movies to cable systems around the United States. The concept was originally developed in the late 1960s by Alfred Stern and Gordon Fuqua, executives at multiple system operator Television Communications Corporation, as part of a multi-channel service that was designed to include channels focusing on the arts, instructional programming and medical programs. The video-to-cable movie delivery concept was presented by Fuqua and Stern at the 1969 National Cable Television Association Convention. Over the course of the next several years, the two men subsequently discussed carriage agreements with other cable providers and engaged in discussions with various film studios to provide film content for the service. TVC was purchased by Warner Communications in 1972, and gave the service the financial funding and content it needed to launch.
Warner Communications launched the Gridtronics service on April 1, 1973. Included among its initial offerings was the Warner Star Channel (the "Warner" brand was subsequently excised from the name), developed as a vehicle to promote the Warner Bros. film library (notably excluding the pre-1950 film library that was owned by United Artists). Cable providers sometimes experienced technical problems trying to broadcast the delivered tapes to viewers, especially when the tapes jammed during playback. The channel was initially offered on systems operated by Warner Cable Communications (now Time Warner Cable), and later on Warner-Amex's experimental QUBE interactive service.
National expansion as The Movie Channel (1979–1983)
On January 1, 1979, Star Channel became a nationally distributed service after it was uplinked to satellite, becoming the third premium service to be distributed nationally through such a transmission method (after HBO, which was uplinked to satellite in September 1975, and Showtime, which was uplinked in March 1978). In April of that year, it began to share channel and transponder space with Warner-Amex's newly launched children's network, Nickelodeon (an outgrowth of the company's former Pinwheel programming service); this resulted in the latter service switching to an encrypted signal during the regularly scheduled network transition at 10:00 p.m. on weekdays and 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time on weekends; Star Channel originally signed off at 4:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific, three hours before the transponder space reverted to use by Nickelodeon.
On September 14 of that year, American Express reached an agreement with Warner Communications to buy 50% of Warner Cable Corporation for $175 million in cash and short-term notes. Through the formation of the joint venture, which was incorporated in December 1979, Star Channel and Nickelodeon were folded into Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment (later Warner-Amex Cable Communications), which handled the operations of the group's cable channels (Warner Cable was folded into a separate jointly owned unit, the Warner Cable Corporation). Warner-Amex executive John A. Schneider served as the company's president; other Warner-Amex staff that manned Star/The Movie Channel's initial management team included executive vice president John Lack, programming chief Robert Pittman, and Fred Seibert, who was in charge of developing on-air promotions.
On December 1, 1979, the network was relaunched as The Movie Channel; the first feature film to be broadcast on the relaunched service was the 1953 comedy Roman Holiday. On January 1, 1980, TMC discontinued its time-lease arrangement with Nickelodeon (then a sister network under the Warner, and later Viacom umbrellas) and became a 24-hour standalone service. At that point, TMC became the first premium channel to air R-rated films during the daytime hours (HBO continues to not air any R-rated films on its primary channel before 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time as of 2016[update], except for occasional day-behind repeats of its Saturday movie premieres airing on Sunday late afternoons; TMC sister network Showtime, Cinemax, and now-defunct rival Spotlight did not run R-rated films during the daytime hours at the time with the former two surviving services not incorporating them onto their morning and afternoon lineups until the late 1980s/early 1990s, while another now-defunct rival Home Theater Network never ran any R-rated films as it was formatted as a family-oriented service).
In 1981, The Movie Channel became one of the first television channels to broadcast movies in stereophonic audio. As the standard for television broadcasts in stereo was a few years away, cable operators had to simulcast the multichannel audio feed as an FM radio signal. Interstitial segments aired during breaks between films for much of the 1980s included Behind the Scenes (featuring biographies and interviews with actors appearing in films set to air on the network or be released in theaters), The Heart of Hollywood (borrowing its name from the slogan that TMC used concurrently during the segment's run from September 1985 to May 1988, and featuring more in-depth interviews with film stars), Reel Shorts (a showcase of live action and animated short films) and Reel Hits (featuring music videos for songs featured in films of that period and their accompanying soundtracks).
Operational merger with Showtime (1983–1985)
For much of its early years, The Movie Channel struggled in a race for subscribers in a subscription television industry, where it had as many as seven pay cable competitors, and even some available on broadcast television in many U.S. cities such as ONTV and SelecTV. In addition to then-HBO parent Time Inc.'s launch of its own competitor to TMC – Cinemax – in August 1980, the competition grew when Warner-Amex and Rainbow Media jointly launched the film and arts-focused Bravo (now a general entertainment basic cable channel, with a reality television focus) in September 1980, with Walt Disney Productions throwing itself into the fray when it announced plans to launch family-oriented The Disney Channel (now a basic cable channel, focusing mainly on children's programming) in April 1983.
In August 1982, MCA Inc. (then-owner of Universal Pictures), Gulf+Western (then-owner of Paramount Pictures) and Warner Communications reached an agreement to jointly acquire TMC, in which the three companies combined would acquire a controlling 75% interest in the service (with each holding a 25% ownership stake) from Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment. The proposal was motivated by the studios wanting to increase their share of revenue for licensing rights to their films to premium television services, as well as concerns that HBO's dominance of that market and its pre-buying of pay cable rights to films prior to their theatrical release would result in that service holding undue negotiating power for the television rights, resulting in a lower than suitable licensing fee rate the studios would be paid for individual films. The three companies officially announced their agreement in principle to acquire interests in TMC on November 11, 1982. Subsequently in late December of that year, the U.S. Department of Justice (which had blocked a similar attempt by MCA, Gulf+Western, 20th Century Fox and Columbia Pictures to create a competing pay service, Premiere, in an antitrust case ruling two years earlier in January 1981) launched a routine preliminary inquiry into the proposed partnership.
On January 7, 1983, Viacom International added itself as a partner and drafted an amendment to the proposal to consolidate The Movie Channel with the company's own competing premium service, Showtime (which Viacom had wholly acquired in August 1982, after buying out Group W Cable's 50% interest in Showtime for $75 million). Under the revised proposal, the four studios would each own a 22.58% stake in the two networks, with American Express owning a 9.68% minority interest. In addition, the consortium would appoint a management team separate from those employed by the two channels – which would continue to operate as separate services – to operate the joint venture. However, the deal ran into regulatory hurdles since Warner, Universal and Paramount received 50% of their respective total revenue from film releases and licensing fees from premium services; furthermore, Showtime and TMC combined would control about 30% of the pay cable marketplace, creating an oligopoly with HBO (which, in conjunction with Cinemax, controlled 60% of the market).
After a four-month investigation resulted in the Department of Justice filing a civil antitrust lawsuit against the five parties to block the Showtime-TMC merger on June 10, 1983, the Department asked Warner and American Express to restructure the deal during hearings for the case. The Department's decision – citing concerns, including some expressed by HBO management, that combining the assets of Showtime and TMC would stifle competition in the sale of their programming and that of other pay cable services to cable providers – was despite the fact that, under the original proposal, MCA, Gulf+Western and Warner had each agreed to continue licensing films released by their respective movie studios to competing pay television networks. The partners involved in the merger would also set standard prices for films that were acquired for broadcast on The Movie Channel and Showtime, either those produced by the studio partners or by unassociated film studios. To address the Justice Department's concerns over the deal, the four partners submitted another revised proposal for consideration on July 19, that included guarantees of conduct agreeing that Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros. would not receive higher residual licensing payments for films acquired by Showtime and TMC than that paid by other studios, and that all four partners would not permit the two channels in the venture to pay lower fees for films produced by three studio partners than that paid by smaller pay television services for the same films.
After the revised proposal was rejected on July 28, Warner Communications and American Express restructured the purchase to include only Viacom as a partner, bowing Gulf+Western and MCA out from the partnership. The changes – which Justice Department officials acknowledged would "prevent any anti-competitive effect from arising" following the merger, by allowing other premium services to enter the market should the venture significantly raise licensing fee prices for films – led the Justice Department to drop its challenge to the merger agreement on August 12; the Department formally approved the deal the following day on August 13. When the deal was completed on September 6, 1983, the operations of The Movie Channel and Showtime were folded into a new holding company, Showtime/The Movie Channel, Inc., which was majority owned by Viacom (controlling 50% of the venture's common stock as well as investing $40 million in cash), with Warner Communications (which owned 31%) and Warner-Amex (which owned the remaining 19% interest) as minority partners.
Transfer to Viacom (1985–2005)
On August 10, 1985, after Time Inc. and cable provider Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI) jointly submitted a bid to buy the company for $900 million and the assumption of $500 million in debt as well as an earlier offer by American Express the previous month to buy out Warner's share of the company (under a clause in the agreement that allowed either company the option of buying out their partner's stake in Warner-Amex), Warner Communications exercised an option to acquire American Express' 50% share of Warner-Amex Cable Communications for $450 million. Among the options, barring that it chose to sell Viacom a 50% interest in the company for $450 million, the deal originally excluded Warner-Amex's 19% interest in Showtime-The Movie Channel, Inc.; that interest would have reverted to Warner, which intended to operate Warner-Amex as a wholly owned subsidiary.
Two weeks later on August 26, Viacom acquired Warner Communications and Warner-Amex's combined 50% ownership interest in Showtime/The Movie Channel, Inc. as well as full ownership of the Warner-Amex and public shareholder interests in MTV Networks for $671.7 million, giving Viacom exclusive ownership of both networks through its $500 million cash payment and acquisition of 1.625 million shares from Warner for the latter's 31% stake in Showtime/The Movie Channel and Warner-Amex's 19% interest in the unit and its 60% interest in MTV Networks (Viacom owned Showtime alone or jointly with other companies – TelePrompTer Corporation, and later briefly, its successor Group W Cable – from the time it launched in July 1976). The buyout, part of an option given by Warner in its purchase of American Express' interest in MTV, was exercised in part to finance much of the buyout of Showtime/The Movie Channel without borrowing any money. The subsidiary was renamed Showtime Networks, Inc. in 1988. Ironically, Warner Communications would acquire HBO and Cinemax, when the company merged with Time Inc. in 1989 to form Time Warner.
In May 1986, TMC began incorporating regular on-air hosts to present the channel's afternoon and evening films, and provide backstory on the production of those scheduled to be shown; the incorporation of regular hosts came after the network used celebrity guest presenters to host special showcase stunts in the fall of 1985. Hosts appearing on the channel between the late 1980s and the mid-1990s included Robert Osborne (then also working as a columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, and who also hosted the channel's Heart of Hollywood behind-the-scenes and interview interstitials), Michelle Russell, Lauren Graham and Joe Bob Briggs (the pseudonym of actor and film critic John Irving Bloom, and host of the popular Saturday evening B-movie showcase Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater).
Format evolution and carriage issues
The Movie Channel underwent a significant rebranding on May 1, 1988, which in addition to introducing a new logo designed by Noel Frankel of Fred/Alan, Inc., also saw the debut of a revamped programming schedule designed to cater to movie fans, introducing block scheduling for its entire film lineup that was organized by genre or film selection; among the blocks were the "TMC Classic", a weekday morning and Sunday overnight block of films from the 1930s to the 1960s; "Dramarama", a weekday late-morning block of drama films; "The Laffternoon Movie", a weekday late-afternoon block of comedy films; and two action film-focused blocks (the "Action Attraction", which aired on weekday mid-afternoons, and the weekly prime time showcase "Friday Night Action").
The most distinct block was the "Weekend Multiplex", featuring a set lineup of different movies aired on a scheduling format inspired by movie theaters, comprising a main daytime block on Saturdays and Sundays, seven individual prime time blocks on Friday through Sunday evenings (encompassing three per night between 7:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time) and themed editions of the existing "VCR Overnight" block (including the "All Night Drive-In" – a spin-off of "Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater" – on Fridays, film marathons on Saturdays and the Sunday edition of "TMC Classics"). The centerpiece of the "Weekend Multiplex" was the "TMC Top Attraction", a premiere film scheduled at different, progressively earlier time slots each evening throughout the weekend. With the exception of "Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater" (which remained on Saturday nights until it was discontinued in February 1996) and the "VCR Overnight" block (which was reduced to Wednesday overnights only in 1997), most of these blocks were discontinued in May 1991.
With the scheduling revamp, TMC greatly increased the amount of films it aired on a monthly basis, from about 40 to more than 100 titles per month, with the addition of older films to the slate (which were presented without colorization, in direct contrast to Cinemax, which at the time had aired remastered color versions of some classic films on its schedule). In addition, TMC began incorporating trailers for current and upcoming theatrically released feature films, which aired during promotional breaks inserted between films until 1997. It also began airing a 15-second daily entertainment news interstitial focusing on the film industry, The Movie Channel News, featuring stories read by a continuity announcer – which varied depending on the segment – over a segment title graphic; the segment would be discontinued in 1991.
Partially as a result of the changes that occurred in 1988, although extended breaks did air in a somewhat limited form beforehand, breaks between individual feature presentations on the channel sometimes ran as long as 20 minutes, and even up to 25 minutes in rare cases, depending on the scheduled start time of the following film (which was denoted on a minute-based countdown ticker graphic that persisted within breaks from May 1988 to August 1997). The Movie Channel temporarily truncated the promotional breaks it aired between films to lengths of five minutes or less in an on-air strategical test during February and March 1993. After results from the test measured an increase in audience retention for other films with the strategy, the channel instituted the limited break lengths on a regular basis in August of that year; TMC abandoned the break limits in 1997. The break limits imposed by the channel resulted in TMC reducing the amount of internally produced interstitial segments that it aired during promotional breaks, with intestitials airing over the next four years consisting mainly of trailers and shorter-length behind-the-scenes segments for upcoming and current films produced by their originating studios.
Although TMC was carried by most subscription television providers, there were some that did not have agreements to carry the channel, even if they already carried Showtime. As an example, now-defunct satellite provider Primestar never carried The Movie Channel; although it announced plans to add it in January 1999, shortly after it announced that agreement, Primestar sold its assets to Hughes Communications (then-owners of competitor DirecTV). In May 1994, Tele-Communications Inc. (TCI) dropped The Movie Channel from more than 30 of the cable provider's service areas. The removal of the channel occurred following an antitrust lawsuit filed by Viacom against TCI, which accused the provider of a "conspiracy to eliminate" Showtime and its sister channels, including TMC. Viacom accused TCI of using the issue of a carriage contract that expired in January 1993, into pressuring Viacom to settle its lawsuit; Viacom reportedly stated that TCI threatened to hurt both Showtime and TMC unless Viacom agreed to purchase an ownership stake in Encore, which Viacom claimed to have first conceived the concept of four years earlier during failed negotiations that would have had TCI purchase 50% of Showtime Networks. The local TCI systems said that the decision to remove The Movie Channel from their channel lineups were made at the local level and was not a company-wide decision. Viacom and TCI settled the Showtime Networks distribution dispute in January 1995, prior to the former's $2.3-billion sale of its Viacom Cablevision systems to TCI affiliate company Intermedia Partners.
In August 1997, TMC underwent an extensive rebranding effort that resulted in the channel briefly premiering its own original movies (which were produced through Showtime), along with the addition of daily movie marathons set around a specific theme and a companion block known as the Double Vision Weekend, a monthly weekend-long marathon of movies that comprised multiple themed mini-marathons. In addition, TMC also started running movie and celebrity trivia segments during breaks between films (originally known as TMC Fun Facts and later TMC Reel Stuff), along with incorporating trivia during promos for movies that were scheduled to air on the channel. In October of that year, The Movie Channel launched The Movie Channel 2 as its sole multiplex service (it was later renamed The Movie Channel Xtra in March 2001).
In March 2001, The Movie Channel began premiering movies that did not previously receive a theatrical, home video or DVD release, under the umbrella brand "TMC First-Run Movies". It also began airing softcore pornographic films during late night time periods. The channel also debuted a series of two-minute sketches called The Pitch, starring character actor Sean Smith as a movie executive who listens as people pitch him ideas for films (the segment was tongue-in-cheek in nature as the pitches were for well-known existing feature films such as Cliffhanger and The Terminator).
Under CBS Corporation ownership (2005–present)
On June 14, 2005, Viacom decided to separate itself into two companies (only six years after the company's acquisition of CBS), both of which would be controlled by Viacom parent National Amusements, amid stagnation of the company's stock price. When the split was completed on December 31, 2005, the original Viacom was restructured as CBS Corporation and acquired Showtime Networks along with CBS' broadcasting assets (including the CBS television network, UPN and the company's broadcast group, which became CBS Television Stations), Paramount Television (now the separate arms CBS Television Studios for network and cable production, and CBS Television Distribution for production of first-run syndicated programs and off-network series distribution), advertising firm Viacom Outdoor (renamed CBS Outdoor), Simon & Schuster, and Paramount Parks (which was later sold to Cedar Fair, L.P. on June 30, 2006). A new company that assumed the Viacom name kept Paramount Pictures, the MTV Networks and BET Networks cable divisions, and Famous Music (the latter of which was sold to Sony-ATV Music Publishing in May 2007).
On May 3, 2006, The Movie Channel adopted a new on-air look including a new logo and slogan (Movies For Movie Lovers). Bumpers that introduced films were discontinued entirely (instead starting the film with the customary intermediate bumper providing rating and content information). The channel's website – which only featured a programming schedule with up to one month of data in advance – was also revamped with the addition of special features including an online store, a streaming video player and previews of films set to air on the channel (TMC still features movie trivia interstitials between films on the linear channels and on its video-on-demand service, though it directs viewers to the channel's website for answers to the trivia questions).
List of channels
Depending on the service provider, The Movie Channel provides up to four multiplex channels – two 24-hour multiplex channels, both of which are simulcast in both standard definition and high definition – as well as a subscription video-on-demand service (The Movie Channel On Demand). The Movie Channel broadcasts its primary channel and multiplex service The Movie Channel Xtra on both Eastern and Pacific Time Zone schedules. The respective coastal feeds of each channel are usually packaged together (though most cable providers only offer the east and west coast feeds of TMC's main channel), resulting in the difference in local airtimes for a particular movie or program between two geographic locations being three hours at most.
Showtime and Flix, which are also owned by CBS Corporation, operate as separate services. Although The Movie Channel is frequently sold together in a package with Showtime, TMC subscribers do not necessarily have to subscribe to the other two services. Prior to the advent of digital cable, many providers often sold The Movie Channel separately from Showtime. Showtime began offering all of its channels, including TMC, Flix and Sundance Channel (now SundanceTV and owned by AMC Networks), in a single package by the early 2000s; this resulted in most providers (with the exception of Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network) ceasing to sell or promote The Movie Channel separately from Showtime (Dish Network and DirecTV offer both TMC and TMC Xtra optionally as either a package with the remainder of the Showtime multiplex, or as part of a separate movie tier to subscribers that do not already have Showtime; both The Movie Channel and Encore are the only U.S. premium channels to be offered to subscribers that do not subscribe to their co-owned premium services).
|Channel||Description and programming|
The Movie Channel
|The "flagship" service; The Movie Channel carries blockbuster and smaller first-run feature films, independent films and late-night erotica. TMC broadcasts a featured movie around 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time each night and has one regularly-scheduled movie block: the weekly horror movie double feature "Splatterday on Saturday" on Saturday evenings at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.|
The Movie Channel Xtra
|A secondary channel providing more movie choice for viewers, that is counterprogrammed with The Movie Channel with a largely separate schedule (outside of some common titles shared between the two channels during each month, which are shown in different time slots). TMC Xtra features a nightly feature movie around 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, and rebroadcasts TMC's "Splatterday" block from the previous week on Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. The channel first launched on October 1, 1997 as The Movie Channel 2, and was renamed as The Movie Channel Xtra on March 5, 2001.|
The Movie Channel HD
The Movie Channel HD is a high definition simulcast feed of The Movie Channel that broadcasts in the 1080i resolution format, and was launched on December 1, 2003. In addition to its main channel, TMC also operates a high definition simulcast feed of The Movie Channel Xtra; both services broadcast a moderate-to-large schedule of programming in HD, with films generally being broadcast in their native aspect ratio. The Movie Channel HD is carried by most of the major American pay television providers: including Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Xfinity by Comcast, Cablevision, AT&T U-verse, DirecTV, Dish Network and Verizon FiOS.
The Movie Channel On Demand
The Movie Channel operates a subscription video-on-demand television service, The Movie Channel on Demand, which is available at no additional charge to new and existing subscribers of TMC. The service launched on December 1, 2003, with a subscriber base of two million homes. The Movie Channel On Demand offers program content available in standard or high definition based on the following genres: action and adventure films, dramas, comedies and softcore pornographic films. It also offers special feature content consisting of film trivia and behind-the-scenes features including interviews. The Movie Channel on Demand's rotating program selection incorporates select new titles that are added each Friday, alongside existing program titles held over from the previous one to two weeks.
As of March 2016, The Movie Channel – through Showtime – maintains exclusive first-run film licensing agreements with network sister company CBS Films (since 2007), The Weinstein Company (since 2009, including releases by Dimension Films; Netflix will hold rights to films released by The Weinstein Company from 2016 onward; ironically, TWC owns 25% of rival premium channel Starz), DreamWorks (featuring only live-action releases through Touchstone Pictures, as part of a distribution agreement with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures), IFC Films, Miramax Films (including films released by Dimension Films), WWE Films, Magnolia Pictures, First Look Studios, and Anchor Bay Entertainment (ironically owned by Starz).
The Movie Channel also shows sub-runs – runs of films that have already received broadcast or syndicated television airings – of theatrical films from Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (including content from subsidiaries Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, and former subsidiary and current independently operated studio Miramax), Samuel Goldwyn Films, Universal Studios (including content from subsidiary Focus Features), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (including content from subsidiaries United Artists, Orion Pictures, and The Samuel Goldwyn Company), Relativity Media (encompassing releases to which Showtime Networks acquired the rights following the conclusion of Netflix's pay television window for its individual releases), Summit Entertainment (for films released prior to 2013), Paramount Pictures and Lions Gate Entertainment (sub-run rights with the latter three studios are for films released prior to 2008). Although it does not hold the pay television rights to telecast recent films from 20th Century Fox – which are held by HBO, as of 2016[update] – The Movie Channel does run independent films to which that studio owns the home video rights, regardless as to whether they were released theatrically. In 2006, Showtime Networks entered into a partial deal with Rogue Pictures to broadcast select films released by the studio (especially those originally produced for home video release).
Many lesser-known film titles (particularly those released as independent films) that have either not received a theatrical release or were released on DVD or home video are also commonly broadcast on TMC. The window between a film's initial release in theaters and its initial screening on Showtime, The Movie Channel and Flix is wider than the grace period leading to a film's initial broadcast on HBO, Cinemax or Starz. Films to which Showtime holds the pay cable rights will usually also run on The Movie Channel and sister channel Flix during the period of its term of licensing.
Future licensing agreements
On October 1, 2013, Showtime Networks announced that it entered into a four-year film licensing agreement with Open Road Films to broadcast feature films released by the studio between 2017 and 2020.
On January 20, 2015, Showtime announced that it entered into a multi-year premium television output deal with film, television and multimedia studio STX Entertainment. The deal encompasses all films distributed theatrically by the studio through 2019, which will be shown exclusively on Showtime Networks and its multiplex channels.
- Splatterday: In May 2006, The Movie Channel introduced a weekly block called Splatterday on Saturday (also known as simply "Splatterday"). The block, which airs on Saturday nights starting at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, is a double feature of horror movies (however until late 2008, repeats of the now-defunct Showtime anthology series Masters of Horror aired within the block, as the only television series to ever air on The Movie Channel). Both films airing in that week's initial late evening block are rebroadcast on TMC's primary channel following the conclusion of the second film; The Movie Channel Xtra also rebroadcasts the entire block the following Friday evening – the night prior to that week's block on The Movie Channel – at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.
- The Good Stuff: The Movie Channel introduced a weeknight block called "The Good Stuff" in May 2006, showcasing critically acclaimed theatrical and independent films as part of its late night schedule, usually airing around 12:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time.
- Midnight Madness: Running from 1983 to 1988, the block originated as "The Saturday Special," a showcase of comedy and musical films on Saturday late nights at 12:00 a.m. Eastern Time. The block, maintaining the same format and time slot, was renamed "Friday Movie Madness" upon its move to Fridays in May 1984, before being renamed "Midnight Madness" in September 1985.
- Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater: Originally debuting in 1984 as The Movie Channel's Drive-In Theater and airing on Fridays in late prime time, the weekly double feature showcase presented a mix of cult films and B movies, along with some exploitation films. In January 1986, the program was moved to Saturday nights with the appointment of a regular host, Joe Bob Briggs (the alter ego of actor and film critic John Bloom, who was asked by TMC management to portray his Texan redneck character – standardly donning cowboy attire and a ten-gallon hat – for a guest hosting role on the program, after gaining notice through his one-man comedic stage show An Evening with Joe Bob Briggs [later retitled Joe Bob Dead in Concert]). Each feature aired on the retitled Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater was bookended by taped wraparound segments that featured Bloom building upon the persona he cultivated in his syndicated newspaper column and stage show, and incorporated many recurring gags from Briggs' unique way of introducing movies (featuring a summary of the amount of violence and nudity included in the films being showcased, with nouns suffixed with "-fu" being used to refer to objects featured in fight scenes) to colorful tales that often dealt with romantic troubles and brushes with the law that involved him rushing to see a film at a local drive-in. As Briggs, Bloom also closed each edition with the signoff, "this is Joe Bob Briggs, reminding you that the drive-in will never die". Bloom's work as the Joe Bob character also extended as host of The Movie Channel's Midnight Madness block during the second half of the 1980s, and for an extension of the "Drive-In Theater", the "All-Night Drive-In", which aired on Fridays from 1988 to 1991 as part of the "VCR Overnight" block. Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater ended its ten-year run on TMC on February 24, 1996, with Bloom reprising the Joe Bob Briggs character as host of TNT's horror film block MonsterVision from 1997 to 2000.
- Salute to the Academy Awards: The Movie Channel aired the "Salute to the Academy Awards" (a month-long block similar to the present-day 31 Days of Oscar annual lineup on Turner Classic Movies) from 1984 to 1997, which ran during the month proceeding the Academy Awards. It featured movies that have won or earned nominations for Academy Awards in various film and acting categories, with one Oscar-winning or Oscar-nominated film airing each evening.
- Tuesday Film Festival: Running from 1985 to 1987, the "Tuesday Film Festival" block was a prime time showcase of critically acclaimed feature films that aired on Tuesday evenings at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time.
- VCR Theater/VCR Overnite/TMC Overnight: The channel launched a weekly feature called "The Movie Channel's VCR Theater" in June 1986, which originally aired nightly at 3:00 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time. The block was created in response to the rise in consumer ownership of VCRs (particularly among the channel's subscriber base) during the 1980s. The films featured were selected for the convenience of subscribers wanting to videotape a movie of particular interest while they are asleep to watch at a later time of their choosing (the overnight time slot was chosen because of the technical limitations with VCRs that prevented cable subscribers from watching one program and recording another simultaneously in the pre-digital video recorder era). The block was renamed "VCR Overnite" in 1988, at which point, it expanded to include three extended blocks: the "All-Night Drive-In" (a spin-off of "Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater") on Fridays, the "Movie Marathon" on Saturdays and "TMC Classics" on Sundays; these full-overnight weekend blocks were discontinued in 1991. The block was reduced to a weekly airing on early Wednesday mornings in 1997 as "TMC Overnight"; this iteration of the block lasted until 2004.
- TMC Top Attraction: This block ran from May 1988 to May 1991, with a featured movie title airing for the first time on TMC being showcased each Friday night at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Encore rebroadcasts of that week's premiere film were then aired two hours earlier from the prior prime time telecast on Saturday (at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time) and Sunday evenings (at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time).
- The Movie Channel's Weekend (at the) Multiplex: Running from May 1988 to May 1991, the "Weekend Multiplex" was a weekend-long umbrella block encompassing a daytime lineup with films scheduled at less fixed airtimes (compared to the scheduling format adopted at the time of the May 1988 rebrand for its weekday daytime and daily nighttime programming) akin to the scheduling used by movie theaters, full late-night themed editions of "VCR Overnite" and several distinct themed film blocks on Friday through Sundays starting at 7:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time. The Top Attraction and Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater were joined as part of the lineup alongside the "TGIF Movie" (a Friday early evening showcase featuring lighter film fare), "Friday Night Action" (a weekly showcase of action films), "The Early Show" (featuring a different feature film on Saturday early evenings), the "Sunday Star Movie" (a prime time feature movie) and "Critics' Choice" (a showcase of critically acclaimed feature films).
- The Movie Channel Challenge: Running each August from 1990 to 1997, "The Movie Channel Challenge" was a month-long summer programming stunt – inspired by the "no-repeat weekends" music playlist stunts used on many radio stations – that featured a lineup of approximately 420 movies, none of which were repeated during the course of that month. The festival was developed to address a consumer complaint common with premium services like The Movie Channel, in avoiding repeat showings of select films on multiple dates and time slots during the calendar month – effectively quadupling the amount of movies that most pay services typically aired in a given month (TMC's film lineup normally averages around 100 movies per month) – and to attract potential subscribers to and increase consumer awareness of TMC (at the time the festival began, The Movie Channel had approximately 2.5 million subscribers, one-third that of sister network Showtime, which had 8.5 million). Individual marathon-style festivals consisting of a set of movies starring a particular actor or focusing on a certain film genre (similar to those later featured as part of the "TMC Marathons/Double Vision Weekends" blocks) would be aired at various points during the period.
- Tuesday Night Terrors: In May 1991, The Movie Channel introduced Tuesday Night Terrors, a weekly block of horror films (similar in format to the present-day Splatterday on Saturday block) that aired on Tuesday nights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time; the block was discontinued in August 1997.
- The Movie Channel Marathons: Following a major on-air rebrand of the channel that occurred in August 1997, TMC started airing movie marathons seven days a week, featuring three (or sometimes four) films that were tied to a specific subject (such as "Ouch" for crime dramas, or "The Eyes Have It" for films with the word "eyes" in their title such as Night Eyes 3) or actor (such as "Omar Goodness" for movies starring Omar Epps). These themed marathons were discontinued on March 2, 2006.
- TMC Double Vision Weekends: In conjunction with the daily marathons, The Movie Channel ran a special extended marathon-style lineup, the "Double Vision Weekend", on a bi-monthly basis beginning in August 1997. These three-day long blocks featured three different movies starring a particular actor or actress within various mini-marathon block, with a new themed set of films airing after the conclusion of the previous block. The "Double Vision Weekend" lineup typically lasted longer than a typical movie marathon aired by the channel (the daily marathon lineups ran during the afternoon and/or evening hours), running throughout the daytime and evening hours each day during the Friday through Sunday period in which it was scheduled. The "Double Vision Weekend" blocks were discontinued in 2006, along with the daily film marathons.
Over the years, TMC has used a myriad of unique, and sometimes bizarre logos and promotional concepts. The channel's original logo under the "Movie Channel" name incorporated a star outline made up of film strips with folded sides, indirectly referencing its previous identity as Star Channel. In 1981, the text for the network's name changed from the Broadway typeface to a stylized all-uppercase font (with a slightly enlarged letter "M") augmented to the left and underside of the star. Beginning in 1983, the network alternately used a script logo (which varied slightly in style, depending on the promo or network ID it was displayed in), sometimes more often than its "star" logo. Promos using the "script" logo were aired on the network as late as 1986, although they were used less frequently from the summer of 1985 as the "star" logo was phased back to universal use within TMC's on-air imaging. Between 1985 and 1988, TMC began airing somewhat clever graphics for their time such as a "tour of Hollywood" introduction for its film presentations, which closed with a shot of the Hollywood skyline with a faint heart outline in the middle of the sky.
On May 1, 1988, The Movie Channel debuted its "eye and profile" logo, which utilized various designs incorporating facial expressions, with the channel's name rendered in Helvetica Extended on tilted black bars at the top and bottom of the logo; some viewers have commented on online blogs and video websites such as YouTube that this logo, due to the eyes being prominently displayed, had frightened them as young children (this logo was replicated somewhat when WGN America used a logo featuring a set of female eyes rimmed with green mascara from 2008 to 2009). The channel ran different and unique feature presentation opens and network IDs during the nine-year period it was in use (among which included intros in which the logo changed facial expressions at the draw of a curtain, set to a bouncy keyboard tune; a grayscale version of the logo – which then winked – rotating to face the screen in front of a gray background accompanied by a steady drumbeat; and a live-action/partially computer-animated sequence set to Indiana Jones-style adventure music in which the logo shoots lasers from its eyes to escape from the newspaper it is printed on – which is set afire as kindling in a fireplace – and embarks on a calamity-filled journey, seen from its point of view, through a family's living room, as it heads toward the safety of a TV set it rappels into on a cable hooked up to a wall outlet above the fireplace's mantle).
TMC adopted a very slick on-air look that predominantly used CGI graphics, with the debut of a new logo in August 1997, a 3D computer-animated green sphere with a tilted and lowercase "tmc" emblazoned on it, usually shown either to the right of the channel's full name or above the name (also rendered in lowercase type). Jeff Bottoms (who has since become The Movie Channel's longest-serving promo announcer, and also does promotions for sister channel Showtime) promoted upcoming programs between films with humorous and tongue-in-cheek voiceovers. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, The Movie Channel started running a wide variety of network promotions from those akin to a movie trailer to typical promos that feature behind-the-scenes trivia relating to the film. The latter technique is still used by the channel today, often in a more hybrid way.
An extensively modified logo was introduced on March 5, 2001, featuring a one-dimensional circle with a lowercase "tmc" in Knockout type on it, surrounded with two lines on the corners framing the circle; the "movie" in the channel's name was rendered in bold. The Movie Channel's current logo was introduced on May 3, 2006, featuring three colored crescent-like sections in a circle framing the channel's name, rendered in the same Helvetica typeface variant used in the 1988-1997 logo. Online film reviewers were incorporated into promos for films to provide backstory on the movie at this point. On April 1, 2010, The Movie Channel and TMC Xtra began displaying digital on-screen graphic logos of the respective channels during its programming; the bug seen is an alternate version of the channel's logo with each segment of the channel's name appearing in a vertically stacked fashion.
- 1979–1983: "All Movies, 24 Hours a Day" (alternately "All Movies, Only Movies, 24 Hours a Day"; used as alternate slogan from 1985–1988)
- 1981–1983: "We're Taking the Movies to America"
- 1981–1983: "You've Got The Movie Channel, The Movies You Want to See(, 24 Hours a Day)"
- 1983–1984: "Anytime You Gotta Have A Movie" (commercial slogan)
- 1984–1988: "The Heart of Hollywood"
- 1988–1990: "A Whole Channel Devoted to Movies"
- 1990–1993: "A Movie Anytime You Want One"
- 1993–1997: "The Movie Channel, Where You're Never More Than 5 Minutes Away from a Movie"
- 1997–2001: "100% Pure Movies, 100% Pure Fun"
- 2001–2006: "The Stuff Movies Are Made of"
- 2006–present: "Movies for Movie Lovers"
- 2014: "Nobody has it Better than on The Movie Channel" (secondary slogan)
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