Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Turner Classic Movies Turmoil: Spielberg, Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson Issue Joint Statement to Protect “Cultural Touchstone”


UPDATE The official statement from Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson:

“Turner Classic Movies has always been more than just a channel. It is truly a precious resource of cinema, open 24 hours a day seven days a week. And while it has never been a financial juggernaut, it has always been a profitable endeavor since its inception.
Earlier this week, David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, got in touch to talk about the restructuring of TCM. We understand the pressures and realities of a corporation as large as WBD, of which TCM is one moving part.
We have each spent time talking to David, separately and together, and it’s clear that TCM and classic cinema are very important to him.  Our primary aim is to ensure that TCM’s programming is untouched and protected.
We are heartened and encouraged by the conversations we’ve had thus far, and we are committed to working together to ensure the continuation of this cultural touchstone that we all treasure.”


Imagine being the head of a studio and attracting the wrath of directors Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Paul Thomas Anderson. And this is after having a huge problem with director Christopher Nolan.

But that’s what’s happened with Warner Bros Discovery chairman David Zaslav. After making a mess at CNN and at HBO, Zaslav sacked the main people who run Turner Classic Movies.

Gone are TCM’s senior vice president of programming and content strategy Charles Tabesh, vice president of studio production Anne Wilson, vice president of marketing and creative Dexter Fedor and TCM Enterprises vice president Genevieve McGillicuddy will all exit the company.

The latest departures follow news on Tuesday that TCM general manager Pola Chagnon is leaving the company after more than 25 years.

Zaslav is replacing them with Michael Ouweleen, the president of Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Discovery Family and Boomerang. Ouweleen previously ran TCM, which sounds good but isn’t really a solution to the problem caused by Zaslav.

Fears that TCM is going to be dismantled, downsized, or reinvented as something terrible immediately provoked the three superstar directors. According to IndieWire they immediately put in a call to Zaslav and asked for some kind of conference call.

The irony here is that Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” is coming from Universal, not Warner Bros where he’s made movies for 20 years. Zaslav wants to win Nolan back, but doesn’t seem to realize that if he tampers with TCM, no name directors will make movies at Warner’s.

This whole debacle follows Zaslav’s’ mucking up of CNN, and turning HBO Max into Max, costing the company subscribers. On top of that, today he sent word that he’s going to license HBO series to Netflix to see what extra pennies he can squeeze from the library.

Zaslav has unerring ability to make enemies and raise ire. The weird thing is, he doesn’t seem to care. He may burn down the whole Warners-HBO-CNN enterprise on purpose. It makes no sense, His previous successes with Discovery, et al indicated he was shrewd and savvy. But this is a puzzlement.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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