Classic cinema holds a special place in a cinephile’s heart. That’s why one of my favorite channels to ever exist is Turner Classic Movies. It is a place that showcases classic cinema, strange B-movies you never heard of, and insights into why certain films are still relevant in modern cinema. TCM is a cinephile's History Channel.
However, Warner Bros. Discovery might not see TCM this way, but rather as a branch of the company that needs trimming. After a plethora of layoffs of TCM’s top brass, which saw longtime executives in charge of maintaining and positively evolving the brand exit the company.
Yesterday, IndieWire learned that the three American directors, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Paul Thomas Anderson, scheduled an emergency call with Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav about the layoffs at TCM.
'After Hours'Credit: Warner Bros.In a joint statement released via Spielberg’s production company, Amblin, the three directors go out of their way to praise Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav.
The joint statement reads:
“Turner Classic Movies has always been more than just a channel. It is truly a precious resource of cinema, open 24 hours a day seven days a week. And while it has never been a financial juggernaut, it has always been a profitable endeavor since its inception. Earlier this week, David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, got in touch to talk about the restructuring ofTCM. We understand the pressures and realities of a corporation as large as WBD, of which TCM is one moving part. We have each spent time talking to David, separately and together, and it’s clear that TCM and classic cinema are very important to him. Our primary aim is to ensure that TCM’s programming is untouched and protected. We are heartened and encouraged by the conversations we’ve had thus far, and we are committed to working together to ensure the continuation of this cultural touchstone that we all treasure.”
TCM was shaped into what it is because of the passion of the cinephiles in executive roles. The brand is powered by people who love and care about the preservation of film and film history. But Zaslav has made it clear over the past year behind the helm of WBD that he cares about slashing budgets and making WBD profitable again.
The network laid off many TCM executives yesterday, including executive VP and general manager Pola Changnon, senior VP of programming and content strategy, Charles Tabesh, VP of brand creative and marketing Dexter Fedor, VP of enterprises and strategic partnerships Genevieve McGillicuddy, who also served as the director of the annual TCM Film Festival, and VP of studio production Anne Wilson.
These are the people responsible for curating lineups shooting intros and outros to great films and problematic films, and creating original shows, documentaries, and video essays that serve as resources for American and cinema history.
'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner'Credit: Columbia PicturesSo where does that leave TCM? While the statement says that “TCM and classic cinema are very important to [Zaslav],” it's hard to justify that he will preserve the integrity of TCM and its values.
While Zaslav is trying to resurrect and rebrand WBD as a studio for filmmakers, hoping to bring some directors back who were burned by Jason Kilar’s regime, it is murky waters to navigate when understanding Zaslav’s big-picture.
If TCM is shuttered, then a lifeline of cinema culture and history will be flattened. Warner Bros. Discovery will be responsible for killing its legacy while trying to create a new one under Zaslav. One thing is clear from my perspective: Zaslav doesn’t value cinema beyond the bottom line unless it is making money in one way or another.
Is the future of TCM looking bleak, or could Zaslav surprise us all? Let us know what you think in the comments.