“This certainly isn’t the game plan we had in mind earlier this year,” Pola Changnon, TCM General Manager, told a conference call full of reporters on April 14. “We’re glad we’re able to execute something this robust in such a short amount of time.”
Set to screen April 16-19, inside the movie palaces along Hollywood Boulevard for the eleventh time, the TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) was called on account of the novel coronavirus pandemic on March 12. Twelve days later, TCM pivoted and announced a replacement: “A remote stay-the-heck-at-home festival.”
TCM’s Special Home Edition opens Thursday night, 8 p.m. ET, with 1954’s A Star is Born—the opening night film of the inaugural TCMFF—with a taped introduction from then-prime time host, Robert Osborne (Osborne died in 2017), and actor Alec Baldwin.
The festival runs through the weekend, screening 38 films, six actor interviews taped at festivals past, and a handful of shorts from the Vitaphone era of Warner Bros. All of which will be accompanied by archival introductions recorded at the festivals and current-day musings from TCM hosts Ben Mankiewicz, Alicia Malone, Eddie Muller, Dave Karger, and Jacqueline Stewart.
“It’s impossible [to transfer the live festival to a televised broadcast] because the rights are very different,” Charlie Tabesh, TCM Senior Vice President of Programming, explained. “We can get rights to things, in either direction, that we couldn’t get the other way. … In a way that helped sort of focus what we could do for the on-air festival.”
That’s evident in this weekend’s programming, as several of the offerings come from the MGM back catalog, which was purchased by Ted Turner—the “T” in TCM—in the 1990s. For Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, TCM will play the hits from TCMFF 2010-2019. And then on Sunday night, TCM screens five announced for this year’s fest, including the pre-code Baby Face and one of Piper Laurie’s best, The Hustler.
Watching movies on TCM is always a welcome activity—a magnificent hybrid of nostalgia and discovery—and this weekend will be more so. And a few bright spots might even emerge, including a home edition component of the festival in the future.
“Let’s be open to the feedback,” Changnon said. “Let’s learn from it so that we can do a version of this in the future.”
As Mankiewicz said, “Changes breed creativity.”
More information and a full schedule can be found at TCM.