What happened to the nightly movie/s on local broadcast?

I grew up in Houston and the ABC affiliate ABC13 would show a movie after the nightly news at 11pm, and then rerun the nightly news and run another movie usually before signing off.

The thing I loved was that before the internet and cheap movie rental this was what introduced me to the world of film. They showed everything from all time greats of cinema to B sci fi, even badly dubbed foreign films. It really was a total roulette what you’d see that night, might be The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly or Saturn 3. The variety was refreshing, you could easily get exposed to something you’d never heard of or thought to watch. They showed a ton of good but obscure movies like A Boy And His Dog and House.

I remember at some point in the early 00s they stopped showing films at night, replaced with talk shows and infomercials :mad:

G4 on cable has something called Movies That Don’t Suck that appears to be copying the nightly movie format down to the interstitials which are pitch perfect :slight_smile:
But they are much more restrictive in what they show which is mostly sci fi, fantasy or action.

Now you have to really know what you are looking for to find it, even mainstream cable movie channels have a very limited variety of movies. HBO at night sometimes fulfills the grabbag role, but sometimes not.

ThisTV, which popped up in recent years, is making its living off of those sorts of movies: older stuff that looks super-cheap to license.

Today in my town they’re showing a bunch of the lower-tier Stephen King movies, like Graveyard Shift and Thinner.

Back before the late 1970s, ABC didn’t offer its affiliates a network feed after the end of prime time. It wasn’t until the Iranian hostage crisis that ABC started running a late news update which ran after the late local news slot (a news update which evolved into “Nightline”). Similarly, CBS didn’t regularly offer late-night stuff until the late 1980s (several dramas, including the original “Forever Knight”, then David Letterman starting in the early 1990s).

So, in any given market, you probably had at least two stations which could offer anything they wanted after the late news. Syndicated programming (primarily repeats of old network shows) wasn’t as prevalent as it is now, and syndicated talk shows and infomercials were pretty much unheard of. So, you wound up with old movies in those time slots.

I interviewed with Weigel Broadcasting last year (the company behind ThisTV and MeTV, which does the same schtick with old TV shows). It’s all driven by their partnership with MGM, which gives them preferred access to MGM’s library of films and TV series. These channels are run on local broadcast stations’ “secondary digital channels”, extra broadcast feeds which they gained in the switch to digital broadcasting, but for which a lot of local stations couldn’t figure out good / economical uses.

The rise of VCRs, DVDs, and now Internet streaming made the broadcast movies less attractive to audiences. Why watch something on broadcast with commercials when you can pick exactly what you want to see and watch it at your own pace and without commercials?

In addition, late-night informercials were far better for a TV station’s bottom line.

Given that they do air movies on the secondary OTA digital channels, the economics of acquiring rights to air old movies can’t be too bad. (I just checked some listings. For tonight, I can watch Zebrahead, Dolemite or Let’s Do It Again. I think I’ll pass.)

I think the main problem is that viewers would rather watch movies on pay cable and basic cable channels. Even though the latter frequently butcher a movie in order to make it fit and cut out the more adult parts, they can still get away with more than broadcast TV. And it doesn’t even have to be “true”. If people think the broadcast version is going to be cut more, they won’t watch it.

Another possible factor is that no one seems to mind if a cable channel airs a movie 10 times during the week, but that’s not going to fly with broadcast channels. It’s apparently really cheap to be able to air a movie over and over.

I am more surprised that that “NBC Friday Night at the Movies”-type airings are gone. Only a few “event” movies get aired on the broadcast networks in prime time. After theaters, DVD, pay-per-view, and premium cable have had their turn, the movie is so “old” (by today’s standards) there’s probably a remake in the works.

We watch some of the movies on ThisTV and on AntennaTV, which is sort of like MeTV but with different classic shows (and from the same company, I believe). Sometimes the movies are absolute dreck, but more often than you would think they’re interesting films the cable channels have let slip through the cracks.

Plus, the late night space got a lot more crowded. It just used to be Carson with the stray other people trying it out. So the other networks (or rather their affiliates) had to fill the space. But now ABC/NBC/CBS all have full late night schedules that go until 1:30 in the morning.

They’ve found that infomercials are more profitable.

I get both This and Me TV (and also MyNetwork TV). There are some odd movies on This (as well as some old shows like Sea Hunt). Don’t remember watching any movies on Me, just TV shows (Batman, Star Trek, Green Acres). MyNetwork TV has Futurama so thats cool.


Yknow I get how it can be good to have a zillion movies at your fingertips and all, but we’ve really lost something which younger adults and kids will never get or enjoy ie how interesting or even exciting it could be when movies came on TV. Same with stuff like Christmas specials. Now it’s all such a yawn.

Or Creature Features, with hosts. Local or syndicated (Elvira, Mistress of the Dark - I miss her still, dammit!). Decades of square-jawed space pilots, Ray Harryhausen critters, Hammer horror films, creeping terrors/incredible shrinking men/50 ft. attacking women…pretty much gone, though TCM shows a handful. (maybe this kind of movie is on some obscure channel, I only have basic cable).

I’m 34 so I thank you for the info about ABC and CBS’s evolution in late nite.

You either didn’t grow up in the Sixties or had an exceptionally good local broadcaster. They NY channels had played one movie all week at 4:30. I think they played the same movie at 11:30.

I agree and am at a loss of why someone has not syndicated a Creepy Tales type of show. I think an Elvira type show would be a big hit nowadays. I want SMT3K back on the air!

Watching the Friday and Saturday late-night TV movies in the 1970’s was my idea of “great living” when I was in high school - lots of really bad horror and sci-fi movies. ThisTV (and TCM) have taken place of that now - having a DVR helps.

I just watched Red Planet Mars with Peter Graves - a preachy “alien-invasion” movie without aliens, along the lines of Contact. Another movie ThisTV just had on was Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, about the 1964 campaign with a Romney/Santorum look-alike. Actually that one’s on Broadway until September 9th! I think it’s great that these obscure movies show up so I can get a chance to see them.

No doy. They pay you to run Colon Pow or The Juicinator. You pay the movie studio to run a movie.

I’ve seen one on one of the channels mentioned above. At first I thought it was an old rerun, but after watching it, I decided it was new. It’s kind of tough to figure out their programming, but it might be this guy: http://svengoolie.com It airs on MeTV on Saturday nights.