Sunday, September 5, 2010

The September of Time

TCM is showing eight of the old March of Time newsreels tonight as part of a salute to the series' 75th anniversary. It got me to wondering why TCM never seems to show any newsreels as part of its short film offerings between movies. After all, when I was a kid, I remember one of the TV channels showing Movietone News shorts in conjunction with a movie that wouldn't fit the time slot properly.

A bit of research led to the answer, which is that TCM presumably doesn't have any easy access to newsreels. I thought all of the studios had departments making newsreels; since they also owned theaters in many cases they'd need some newsreel programming to bring the patrons into the theaters as part of the night's program. Well, they did and they didn't. They all distributed newsreels, but the newsreels would have been produced independently. RKO owned the rights to Pathé's newsreel output (Pathé News) up until the late 1940s, at which point they sold the rights, including the back library, to Warner Bros. The fine folks at Warner's later sold those rights to an independent company, which as I understand it is part of the reconstituted Pathé. MGM, meanwhile, had an agreement William Randolph Hearst to distribute newsreels originally known as Hearst Metrotone News, but later renamed News of the Day. Those newsreels, however, are owned by the UCLA archive.

So, in short, the Turner Library, which became the backbone of the original library of movies for TCM (that is, the pre-TV WB movies; the RKO library; and the MGM movies Kirk Kerkorian sold off to Ted Turner in the late 1980s), doesn't as far as I can tell have any newsreels in it.

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