Why do they use roman numerals when showing the date produced for TV shows and Movies etc…

I feel more like I do now than I did when I got here.

Because it looks classier, you low-brow mouthbreather…

…and put some clothes on for Christsake! You’ll catch pneumonia runnin’ around like that at this time of year. :wink:

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Classier? Nah. What do they know from classy?

But I notice that the Roman numerals are never shown long enough for me to decipher them.

Maybe they don’t want you to know when the thing was produced.

Hmm, do we have a conspiracy here?

Or am I just slow?

Okay, so I’m slow.

If you’re an optimist, you haven’t been paying attention.

I only notice this on Merrie Melodies or Looney Tunes. I’ll be sitting there with my kids, the numbers will zip by, and I’ll be yelling “Early 'forties! This’ll be a good one!” or “Late 'fifties! Lame jokes and probable ethnic humor of questionable taste! Look for Speedy Gonzales or Pepe LePew!”


I’d guess the same reason Roman numerals are found on the copyright pages of some books.

(everybody! Make like singing Jews!)
Traditiooon . . . Tradition!


There’s always a bigger fish.

I knew a guy about ten years ago that sent in his income tax return made out entirely in Roman numerals. The IR-SS was not amused. Fortunately, he had a backup copy in Arabic numerals, which he turned in before the Revenue Fascists could take his house, car, bank account, dog, wife, kid’s tricycles and his outhouse.

Here’s the scoop on the roman numeral/movie connection…

Today, films are released across the country on thousands of screens simultaneously. When Star Trek 23: We’re So Very Tired is released in Los Angeles, it’s also released in Peoria and Podunk on the same day. This was not always so. Simultaneous release on more than a few dozen screens was rare. Rather than flood every available screen with the same picture, a disrtibutor would release a movie slowly across the country. It was possible, in fact likely, that a picture might not make it to every screen for a year or two or even more.

Combine this with the fact that although today we place great value on old movies, in the early days of film an old movie was, well, just that… old. Today, film is (or at least can be) an art form. Then, it was seen as simply entertainment for the masses. And the masses wanted new and fresh, not something old and recycled.

Hence the roman numerals. Copyright law required a date be posted on the film’s title page. Roman numerals are difficult to decipher for most people. So, decided some brilliant, but nameless studio PR flack, post the date in an unreadable script, and most people wouldn’t be able to figure out if they were seeing something old or new.

In short, there was once a time when roman numerals gave a film a longer shelflife. Today, it’s just a tradition.

Interestingly, although most films are still copyrighted with a roman numeral date, we don’t usually follow that tradition in television production. Is it because we’re more progressive than those old blowhards making film, or are we just too stupid to figure out the date correctly? Um…


Well, in past years, the IRS was perfectly happy to accept a return like that, even sending out a press release. Showed they had a sense of humor.

And then after everyone had a good laugh and the reporters went home, they threw you into a cage full of rabid badgers.

David Feldman tackles this one in his book IMPONDERABLES. He basically says we don’t know for sure, one likely hypothesis is to prevent viewers from spotting exactly how old the show is. Hard enough to even see the release date as the credits go zipping by, let alone convert them from Roman numerals.

He contacted studio representatives who didn’t know. He concludes that it’s a tradition. “Never discount inertia as an explanation for any phenomenon.”

Welll… maybe. But I’ve seen roman numerals as dates in books, on academic buildings, on monuments, on public works constructs… you’d have to expect that SOMEONE walking past a university library would have the time and ability to puzzle it out.

I always assumed it was because roman numerals somehow look more, well, SERIOUS, and that the practice predated movies by centuries.

Do you think the Mars family is going to sue every single movie maker next year for infringement?

Copyright MM?

Welll… maybe. But I’ve seen roman numerals as dates in books, on academic buildings, on monuments,

A WAG, but, that could be because when dates were carved in stone, the Roman Numerals were made up of straight lines? No! No! No! you say, the C is curly, BUT in Roman times did it not look like a V on its side. (I tried to make it look right but when I turned the keyboard sideways, it still came out the same…must be something wrong with the K/B)