Turner Classic Movies Question

I know Ted bought the whole MGM vault of films, right?

I haven’t really paid attention, but does that mean they will only play MGM stuff because they don’t have to pay for the rights to show anything else?

The reason for the question stems from me looking for an uninterrupted version of It’s A Wonderful Life which I wanna DVR, and TCM’s not showing it, and I thought for sure that if any movie channel would show it, it would be them.

Looked for it on our (Georgia) PBS station, but they’re not showing it either.

Guess I’ll have to buy it…



The reason why you didn’t see It’s a Wonderful Life on TCM or the other channels you mentioned is because NBC has exclusive rights to show the movie for a specific period of time (exactly how long I don’t know).

Also, for the record, IAWL was not an MGM film.

It’s A Wonderful Life was released through Frank Capra’s Liberty Films. Although the film entered the public domain in the 1970s (thus leading to its popularity), the copyright was re-enforced after it was discovered the film was based on a copyrighted story. The film is now owned by Republic Pictures, a division of Viacom International. NBC, as stated, has exclusive TV rights, and will air the film on Christmas Eve at 8pm Eastern.

As stated, Turner Entertainment, a Time Warner Company, owns the entire Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer backlog up to the mid-1980s.

TCM certainly shows films that are not from the MGM library.

The Turner library also features various old Warner and RKO films.

Well, thanks for the info, y’all.

At least I did get to see Christmas Story (my first time! :rolleyes: ) on TCM.

Interesting to find out that the same guy who made Porky’s I and II also directed that one, but the humor kinda follows those 2 flicks, so I’m not surprised.

Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!



Turner Entertainment owns the pre-1986 MGM film library, the pre-1986 Warner Bros. film library, and the RKO film library.

The pre-1986 United Artists film library is somewhat scattered in copyright and distribution rights, because it was basically a releasing organization for independent producers, but Turner Entertainment owns a lot of the films.

The pre-1948 Paramount film library is owned by Universal Pictures. 1948-forward are still owned by Paramount/Viacom.

The Columbia Pictures film library is owned by Columbia/Sony.

The 20th Century-Fox film library is owned by Fox Inc.

The Universal Pictures film library is owned by NBC Universal.

The Monogram/Allied Artists film library is owned by Turner Entertainment.

Republic Pictures television distribution is now the responsiblity of CBS Paramount Television, with home video rights to Lions Gate Home Entertainment.

Paramount/Viacom claims a copyright on It’s a Wonderful Life, based on a legally dubious copyright maneuver (it was in the public domain), and they have been able to intimidate enough broadcasters into not showing the movie without their license.

Not so much “discovered” as accomplished: the unpublished short story on which the screenplay was based was registered for copyright, decades after It’s a Wonderful Life was released, for the express purpose of regaining a copyright claim — and the royalties — to the film itself.

Yeah, I’ve noticed those copyright laws can be pretty durned flexible if you have enough dough.

Correction to my previous post: the short story “The Greatest Gift” was registered for copyright in 1943, and the copyright was renewed in 1971.

Nonsense. The story was published; I have a copy of it in The Other Side of the Clock, edited by Philip Van Doren Stern (the author of the original story) in 1969. I’ll dig up my copy tonight and get the actual copyright information.

That was long before It’s a Wonderful Life was even linked to Christmas. I actually had to work very hard to see it back in the early 70s; I knew only one person who had ever heard of the movie and it was not associated with Christmas at all. I finally caught it in a midnight showing on TV in August.

A look at Wikipedia indicates that the film failed to renew copyright in 1974, which matches my experience. Note that 1974 date is five years after the story was published in The Other Side of the Clock, so even if the work wasn’t copyrighted originally (Stern did send it as a Christmas card and may not have bothered – though since he sold it to the studios, he would have been crazy not to register copyright), it was copyrighted in 1969.

Wikipedia indicates that the film fell out of copyright, but the script and movie remained in copyright, which was how control of it was regained.

As a side-note, y’all might be interested to know that the actor who played Jimmy Stewart’s youngest son, Tommy Bailey, has written a children’s book called It’s A Wonderful Life - For Kids!.

Jimmy Hawkins (now 65) wrote the book and the plot has Tommy experiencing the same stuff his Dad did, (being accused of theft, and standing on that same bridge).

This coincides with the re-release of the film by Paramount.

(I got that from my copy of AARP Magazine, which sometimes has some good stuff in it. :wink: )


BTW, I’m one of the few people alive who not only read “The Greatest Gift,” but read it before I saw It’s a Wonderful Life. The story was much more sophisticated and interesting that the movie overall; I gave a lot of credit to how Capra stretched it into a movie, but just this year I realized that much of it was self-plagiarism from American Madness – a movie about a kindly banker who believes in his customers and who, when faced with ruin, is saved by his friends coming to his rescue with the money he needs.

Did you miss my correction?