Monday, April 27, 2009 at 3:00AM
Think of what these movies have in common: The Bad and the Beautiful, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Anatomy of a Murder, Roman Holiday, Birdman of Alcatraz, and The Birds. They're all classics, sure, but they're also all on Turner Classic Movies. This Thursday. That's a hell of a line-up. But what if you've already got your TiVo working overtime and can't catch up on the ol' black and whites?
Warner Bros. recently announced that you can order factory direct DVDs or streaming video of some of the hard-to-find films from its archives, with the ultimate goal to make available each of the 6,800 titles in the studio vaults. It's a bold move and one with an eye on the future, both in terms of embracing new technology and cutting out the middleman to make the movies seemingly easier to acquire.
I'm certain other studios will slowly follow suit, but even if they don't, there are options out there for fans of classic movies to get their fix, like this site that lets you download public domain movies from the studio era.
Isn't it time Turner Classic Movies does the same thing? Just think if you could stream their content if you're stuck in an airport, like Dr. No and From Russia with Love this Friday night, or perhaps even better, Evil Dead 2 and Antonioni's Blow-Up back-to-back overnight on Saturday?
And that's just the option of streaming their programming as it airs. Imagine the possibilities if you could watch anything in the network's massive catalog whenever you wanted. Would you pay a monthly fee of $5 or something to watch some old Hitchcock or Billy Wilder movies? Especially when the network rolls out lists like its recent 15 Most Influential Classic Movies, having them accessible online only gives TCM's already terrific programming that much more relevance.
It's true that you can watch video on the TCM website, but it's primarily old trailers and movie clips from each month's programming. There is one feature film available in April, the 1937 Oscar nominee Topper. I'm sure there are legal and financial considerations with streaming most of these movies online, although Ted Turner owns a healthy chunk of the films, anyway, so that seems like a one-time hurdle to jump just to establish precedent. Perhaps the network could one day offer downloads as an alternative to its DVD sales.
It boils down to this: TCM is unquestionably the best movie channel on TV and it already monetizes its website through subscriptions and DVD sales. So isn't the next logical step to give its audience more access to the wonderful history of cinema it works so hard to promote and preserve?