Why the same five movies on TV?

For the past few months or years, the same damned half-dozen or so movies would play repeatedly on TNT and the other basic cable channels, and I thought “Hmmmm, seems to be a little heavy airplay for that one–didn’t I just notice it playing a few weeks ago? Oh well,” but this is getting absurd. You know which ones I mean, PRETTY WOMAN, HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, MISS CONGENIALITY, the rest of the usual suspects. Oh, yeah, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, too. Lately, QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER is on the mandatory list.

I mean, they’re okay movies, most of them, but it’s like they’re playing 24/7 since the dawn of time. Why is that? Do the TV stations own the rights to show these films, so it’s basically free for them, as opposed to other films they have to rent or something? What’s the deal here?

My experience defines “the past few months or years” as “since 1977,” when my parents first got cable.

A Doper once commented that in his house, HBO stood for “Hey, Beastmaster’s on!”

I think you’re overstating it just a bit. Basically, movie channels have a regular “playlist” just like radio stations, and certain movies are on it and get played on television a lot (you forgot Tremors, Conspiracy Theory and Die Hard though). They then fill out the rest of their schedule with other movies and TV shows that aren’t as commonly played.

It likely comes down to two simple reasons: the program director likes those movies and/or they get relatively good ratings considering the fact that they’ve been on TV hundreds, perhaps even thousands of times.

And as KneadToKnow jokingly mentions, the playlist gets refreshed all the time. When was the last time Beastmaster was in regular rotation on any channel?

The Hunt for Red October. It’s always… on. I don’t know why. It’s a fine movie, but it’s always… playing. It’s eerie.

I haven’t seen it for a while, but a few years back, it seemed like Comedy Central was showing “Fletch” every freakin’ weekend.

If “Dirty Dancing” isn’t on, be worried. It’s the end of the world or something, because “Dirty Dancing” is ALWAYS on.

There’s a thread from a few days ago about which movies you’ve seen the most often. National Treasure and Drive Me Crazy are on the list not because I own the dvds but because they’re on cable so often.

It may be this. I seem to recall hearing that when a network purchases the right to broadcast a movie, they will often be forced to actually buy the right to two screenings.

The first will be soon after the purchase, while the second will be kept for emergency filler time. So when two hours opens up on their schedule, that they are desperate to fill with any old crap they have lying around, inevitably they chuck in some movie that last screened only three months previously.

What’s weird is that there are movies which are more or less equivalents to the ones already mentioned, but never get the airplay. Encore, with it’s zillions of subchannels, especially seems to have a rotating list of favorites, while completely eschewing others.

As usual, my weirdly wired brain is unable to come up with any examples.

Scanning some lists at IMDB, here are a few examples (some of which I’m sure someone will point out that have played somewhere lately): Angel Heart, Life of Brian, The Wild Bunch, Dog Day Afternoon, Raging Bull, American Beauty. Others just seem victim of changing tastes (dated), or after numerous parodies can’t be taken seriously anymore, or are seen as too intellectual, or something (The Elephant Man, The Pianist, Gandhi, A Clockwork Orange). There’s a number of Paul Newman vehicles which only now after his death will see renewed airplay.

Remember when TBS used to be the “all The Blues Brothers, all the time” network? And that’s one of my favorite movies.

HBO also played The Beastmaster II a lot. And Krull, which is kind of the same movie.

Well, there is TBS on Demand.

My guess is that TBS broadcasts repeat films like Miss Congeniality and Pretty Woman because they want to have households (think sisters visiting mom after work) to watch the movie they saw recently again so that the advertisers will have increased ratings. TNT does something similar on the weekend. For example, Lara Croft Tomb Raider (which is my favourite film and opened in theatres in the summer of 2001) was broadcast three times, Friday, Saturday, Sunday on the same weekend a few years ago. In fact, TNT promoted LCTB that way.

I know whereof you speak. For a time it seemed that half of all television broadcast time given to movies was given to “The Outlaw Josie Wales.” Now things are significantly different – it only occupies about 1/20th of all movie slots.

I think some of it may have to do with vertical integration. The big movie distribution companies are owned by the same people who own TV networks and cable channels. Naturally the product they want to sell to TV stations, cable channels, etc., gets first consideration, and maybe the station HAS to run the product whether they like it or not. I really don’t know, I just know that seems a likely prospect under the circumstances.

One thing I hate is when a station runs a movie several times in a row in one evening. And it’s usually a movie that sucks.

Coming up sometime this week on Sydney’s free-to-air TV…