Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson are stepping up to help curate programming for Turner Classic Movies, amid a tumultuous week of layoffs and leadership changes that had fans worried about the future of the channel.
Last week Warner Bros. Discovery laid off some top TCM people including General Manager Pola Changnon and programming head Charles Tabesh, prompting public outcries from the film community who tweeted with the hashtag #SaveTCM and wrote passionate op-eds about its cultural value.
By Wednesday, under the leadership of WBD CEO David Zaslav, the company had stabilised plans for TCM’s future, enlisting Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group co-chairs and CEOs Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy to oversee TCM, bringing on Spielberg, Scorsese and Anderson as official curators and reversing course on Tabesh’s layoff.
“TCM is a cultural treasure, and we are honoured to help steer the future direction of this beloved brand with the partnership of three of the most iconic filmmakers of our time, Steven, Marty, and Paul,” De Luca and Abdy said in a statement.
The strategy, all noted, was led by Zaslav. And Spielberg, Scorsese and Anderson are already working on ideas with De Luca and Abdy.
“We are thrilled that longtime programmer Charlie Tabesh will be staying with TCM and gratified to know that the team is focused on preserving TCM’s mission of celebrating our rich movie history while at the same time ensuring that future generations of filmmakers and film lovers have TCM as a valuable resource,” the filmmakers said in a statement.
TCM’s on-air hosts, like Ben Mankiewicz, Dave Karger and Alicia Malone are expected to stay on too and plans are still in motion for the annual film festival in Los Angeles to continue as well.
Mankiewicz earlier this year spoke to AP about the channel’s passionate fan base, from civilians to celebrities like Tom Hanks, who mentioned TCM frequently in his recent memoir. Scorsese also famously keeps it on in his editing suite.
“There’s no channel like us where people’s identification is with the channel,” Mankiewicz said. “When you look at people’s social media pages, they’ll be like ‘lawyer, mother, wife, TCM fan.’ No one says that about Showtime. No one says ‘I’ll watch anything on ABC.’ It’s an absurd thing to say but they say it about us.”
A spokesperson for Warner Bros. Discovery said the company “is fully committed to safeguarding, supporting, and investing in (TCM) for the future” and said that the content investment has grown by over 30 per cent this year but that TCM is not immune to “the very real pressure on the entire linear ecosystem.” The changes and cuts, the spokesperson said, mean a more sustainable operation behind the screen and protect the channel’s mission of bringing more titles to the air and “preserving and protecting the culture of cinema.”