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Turner Classic Movies
Turner Classic Movies logo
Launched April 14, 1994
Owned by Turner Broadcasting System
Warner Bros. Entertainment
(Time Warner)
Picture format 480i (SD)
1080i (HD)
Country United States
Broadcast area Nationwide (also available in Canada with substitutions; international versions in Spain, Asia, Latin America, U.K. and Ireland)
Headquarters Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Sister channel(s) TBS, TNT, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Boomerang, CNN, HLN, TruTV (United States)
TCM 2 (UK & Ireland)
Website TCM.com
DirecTV Channel 256 (SD),
Channel 1256 (VOD)
Dish Network Channel 132 (SD/HD)
DSTV Channel 109
Tata Sky (India) Channel 357
n Channel 44
UPC Poland Channel 487
AT&T U-verse Channel 790 (SD)
Channel 1790 (HD)
Verizon FiOS Channel 230
Bell Fibe TV (Canada) Channel 292

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is a movie-oriented cable television channel, owned by the Turner Broadcasting System subsidiary of Time Warner, featuring commercial-free classic movies, mostly from the Turner Entertainment and MGM, United Artists, RKO and Warner Bros. film libraries. TCM is headquartered at the Techwood Campus in Atlanta, Georgia, in Midtown.

About TCM

Unlike AMC (TV channel), Turner Classic Movies is essentially commercial-free, advertising only TCM products, promos for specific films scheduled to air on the channel in primetime, typically using the film's original movie trailer. It also airs promos for special programming and featurettes about classic film actors and actresses in between features. TCM's content has also remained mostly uncut and uncolorized (depending upon the original content of movies, particularly movies rated by the MPAA after 1968). Because of the uncut and commercial-free nature of the channel, TCM is formatted similarly to a premium channel; as such, viewers might find that certain films, particularly those made from the 1960s onward, may feature nudity, sexual content, violence and strong profanity; the channel also features premium channel-style ratings bumpers seconds before a film starts.

From time to time, the channel shows restored versions of films, particularly old silent films with newly commissioned musical soundtracks. TCM is also a major backer of WGBH's Descriptive Video Service program, and many of the films aired on the network have visual description for the blind and visually impaired, which are accessible through the SAP option through a television or cable/satellite receiver.

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 opportunity to see most of the feature films made during their careers, from beginning to end. Unlike AMC and Fox Movie Channel, Turner Classic Movies presents many of its features in their original screen aspect ratio (widescreen or full screen) whenever possible. TCM also regularly presents widescreen presentations of films not available in the format on any home video release. In 2008 TCM was given a Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.[1]


Eight years before the launch of TCM, Ted Turner had acquired Metro Goldwyn Mayer, but shortly after sold the studio while retaining the library for itself. The vast library of Turner Entertainment would serve as the base program upon its launch; Turner Classic Movies officially debuted on April 14, 1994 at 6 p.m. ET with Ted Turner ceremonially launching the channel in New York City's Times Square district.[2][3] The date was chosen for its significance as "the exact centennial anniversary of the first public movie showing in New York City." The very first movie ever screened on TCM was the 1939 classic epic Gone with the Wind, exactly what its sister station, TNT, had aired as its debut program six years before.

At the time of its launch, TCM was available to only approximately one million cable subscribers[4]; the channel served as a competitor of AMC (at the time, called American Movie Classics), which had a virtually identical format to TCM as both cable channels ran mostly pre-1970 films; though by 2002, AMC had reformatted itself to feature films from all eras, leaving TCM as the only cable movie channel devoted entirely to classic films.

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-1949 Warner Bros. library (which itself includes other acquired properties such as the Lorimar, Saul Zaentz, and National General Pictures libraries); incidentally, TCM had already been running some of Warner's film titles through a licensing agreement with the studio made prior to the launch of the channel.[5]

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).

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. In April 2010, TCM held the first TCM Classic Film Festival, at the Grauman's Chinese Theater and the Grauman's Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. Hosted by Robert Osborne, the four-day long annual festival celebrated Hollywood and its movies, and featured celebrity appearances, special events and screenings of around 50 classic movies including several newly restored by the Film Foundation, an organization devoted to preserving Hollywood's classic film legacy. [6] Upon completion of the festival, TCM announced that they would hold a second festival in 2011.[7]


TCM's vast library of films spans several decades of cinema and includes thousands of film titles. TCM's programming season runs from February until the following March of each year when a retrospective of Oscar-winning and Oscar-nominated movies is shown, called 31 Days of Oscar. 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.) under the banner name TCM Extras (formerly One Reel Wonders). In 2007, some of the short films featured on TCM began appearing on TCM's website. In part to allow these interstitials, Turner Classic Movies airs its feature films at the top or bottom to the hour, or at one-quarter past or before the hour, instead of in varying time slots. The network also airs original content, mostly documentaries about classic movie personalities and particularly notable films.

Movie library

Besides MGM, United Artists[8] and Warner Bros. releases, TCM also shows films under license from Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Productions, Columbia Pictures, StudioCanal and Janus Films. 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-1949 releases, which are handled for television by Trifecta Entertainment & Media. 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. TCM occasionally shows some classic films from 20th Century Fox[9], Paramount Pictures[10], Universal Studios and Columbia Pictures, but they are licensed individually.

Although a vast majority of the movies shown on Turner Classic Movies are from the 1930s through 1960s, some are more contemporary; it is not uncommon for TCM to air films released in the 1970s, 1980s or (in rare cases) the 1990s and early 2000s.

Hosted and special programming

Most feature movies shown in prime time (8 p.m.-2:30 a.m. Eastern 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 J. Mankiewicz's grandson and great-nephew of Joseph L. Mankiewicz. As such, TCM is the last remaining movie channel in the United States to feature hosts providing information about a film prior to the movie, a practice once used by some premium channels until the late 1990s.

The Essentials is a weekly program on Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET, spotlighting a specific movie and containing a special introduction and post-movie discussion; the spotlight movie is often replayed the following Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. The current hosts are Osborne and Alec Baldwin. 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; however, Turner Classic Movies airs a "Star of the Month" year-round, except during special programming, in which every Wednesday during each month starting at 8 p.m. ET the majority of (if not all) feature films from a classic film star are shown during primetime and the late night/early morning hours.

"Silent Sunday Nights", airing Sunday nights at midnight ET, features silent films 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. Following the "Silent Sunday Nights" feature(s), "TCM Imports" airing on Sunday nights around 2 a.m. ET, is a weekly presentation that features foreign films; "TCM Imports" previously ran on Saturdays until the early 2000s. TCM also features a monthly program block called the "TCM Guest Programmer", in which once a month the channel features a selection of films that are favorites of that month's celebrity guest, in which the guest discusses the film with Robert Osborne (an offshoot of this block featuring TCM employees was done throughout the month of February 2011). In addition, TCM occasionally commemorates a recent death of a classic film star by running a 24-hour marathon of their signature film work in their honor.

In October 2006, the network premiered TCM Underground, a Friday late-night series hosted by rocker/filmmaker Rob Zombie, 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). Rob Zombie no longer hosts "TCM Underground", and the presentation no longer has a host.

In the summer of 2007, the network began airing "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). In 2009, John Lithgow became the host of "The Essentials Jr." All featured programming has their own distinctive feature presentation open for the particular scheduled presentation. Bill Hader serves as host of the 2011 season of Essentials, Jr.

In December 1999, TCM debuted "TCM Remembers", which is a tribute to recently deceased film personalities (actors, producers, composers, directors) airing occasionally during promo breaks between films; the segments appear in two forms: following the recent death of a single particular film personality, the segment will feature clips of the work during the deceased's career; in addition during the second half of the month of December each year, a compilation "TCM Remembers" interstitial will run honoring most (if not all) of the film personalities who died during the calendar year. Very often, when a well known actor, producer, or director dies; the network will devote an entire day to showing movies associated with the individual, within a few days after the person has died.


In June 2009, Turner Classic Movies launched a high definition version of the channel, showing the same programming as its standard-definition channel. Initial programming was not in native high definition and was instead upconverted from standard definition, but benefited from the greater bandwidth allocated to the channel. Programs available on the high definition feed are broadcast in upconverted 1080i.

TCM Vault Collection

The Vault Collection consists of several different DVD lines of rare classic films that have been licensed, remastered, and released by Turner Classic Movies. These releases are the DVD debuts of all of the films featured in the collection. The initial batch of DVDs are pressed in limited quantities and subsequent batches are Made-On-Demand (MOD).

  • Universal Collection — Films licensed by TCM from the Universal Studios vault.
  • The Lost RKO Collection — RKO films from the 1930s.
  • TCM Archives — A series of DVD boxsets released by Warner Home Video featuring Pre-Code and Silent Films which includes the Forbidden Hollywood series.
  • TCM Spotlight — A series of DVD boxsets released by Warner Home Video featuring the popular Charlie Chan and stars such as Esther Williams, Errol Flynn, and Doris Day.

International versions

Main article: Turner Classic Movies (around the world)

TCM is available in many other countries around the world. In Canada, Turner Classic Movies debuted in 2005 on the Shaw Cable system and Shaw Direct satellite service. Rogers Cable started offering TCM in December 2006 as a free preview channel for all digital customers, and added to the analogue package in February 2007. While the schedule for the Canadian channel is generally the same as the U.S. channel, some films are replaced for broadcast into Canada due to rights issues and other reasons. Other versions of TCM are available in Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Asia, Latin America, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Poland. The UK version operates two channels, including a spinoff called TCM 2.


  1. http://www.peabody.uga.edu/news/event.php?id=59
  2. Mitchell, Kim; Rod Granger. "Turner launches TCM", Multichannel News, April 18, 1994. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
  3. Lon Grahnke. "Classic Films Find New Cable Outlet In Turner Empire", Chicago Sun-Times, April 10, 1994. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
  4. Brown, Rich. "Few tickets for Turner Classic Movies", Broadcasting & Cable, April 18, 1994. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
  5. "Turner picks up Warner films", Broadcasting & Cable, December 6, 1993. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from HighBeam Research:
  6. https://archive.is/20120913081231/www.nypost.com/p/blogs/movies/item_3Wjf7vaaMrf7c6PHAaIJ3N
  7. http://news.turner.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=5110
  8. Katz, Richard. "TCM purchases large MGM/UA film package", Multichannel News, November 21, 1994. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
  9. Dempsey, John. "TCM lands passel of pix from Fox", Daily Variety, August 13, 2004. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from HighBeam Research.
  10. Brown, Rich. "Turner signs Paramount titles for $30M: new classic movie channel seeks additional packages to supplement MGM/RKO library", Broadcasting & Cable, August 16, 1993. Retrieved February 28, 2011 from HighBeam Research.

External links

See also

  • TCM 2