UPDATE: On Wednesday evening, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Anderson released a joint statement about their discussions with Warner Bros. Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav regarding TCM.
After Warner Bros. Discovery announced layoffs at Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on Tuesday, filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson conferred with WBD chief David Zaslav about the future of the cinema network.
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Variety has learned that the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO convened a call with the trio of top filmmakers on Wednesday for guidance following the departure of top TCM execs, including general manager Pola Changnon, who stepped down after more than 25 years with the network and Turner.
“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,” Spielberg, Scorsese and Anderson wrote in a joint statement following the conversation.
“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,” they continued. “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.”
The statement concludes: “We are heartened and encouraged by the conversations we’ve had so far, and we are committed to working together to ensure the continuation of this cultural touchstone that we all treasure.”
Spielberg, Scorsese and Anderson are key parties of the Film Foundation, the non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and restoration of classic cinema. The Film Foundation was founded in 1990 by Scorsese, with Spielberg serving on its original board of directors and Anderson joining in 2006. In 2022, TCM expanded its partnership with the nonprofit, announcing a multi-year financial commitment to fund education and restoration of classics movies. The expansion was commemorated at this year’s TCM Classic Film Festival, where Spielberg made a special appearance to debut a 4K restoration of the Warner Bros.’ the classic “Giant.” In April, Spielberg, Anderson and Zaslav also sat for a Q&A at the festival following a special screening of the 4K restoration of “Rio Bravo,” moderated by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.
The cuts came as Warner Bros. Discovery implements a round of layoffs in its domestic cable group that affects about 100 employees across the legacy Discovery and Turner brands. Other top TCM executives leaving the company are senior VP of programming and content strategy Charles Tabesh; VP of studio production Anne Wilson; VP marketing and creative Dexter Fedor; and VP enterprises and strategic partnerships Genevieve McGillicuddy, who also serves as the director of the annual TCM Film Festival.
News of the layoffs at TCM has caused a major stir in the film community, with filmmakers and stars sharing their concerns about the future of the network on social media.
“Turner Classic Movies has been a fixture in my life for as long as I can remember,” Ryan Reynolds tweeted. “It’s a holy corner of film history – and a living, breathing library for an entire art form. Please don’t fuck with TCM.”
WBD TV networks chief content officer Kathleen Finch announced the leadership transition in a memo to staff, sharing that Michael Ouweleen, president of Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Discovery Family and Boomerang, will oversee TCM, as he did prior to the Warner Bros.- Discovery merger in 2022.
“While change is never easy and can create a sense of uncertainty, I want to assure you that we remain fully committed to this business, the TCM brand, and its purpose to protect and celebrate culture-defining movies,” Finch wrote. “As storytellers, that is our legacy, and we will continue to bring the history and impact of classic films to life on-air and in other ways.”
Indiewire was the first to report news of the filmmakers’ conversation with Zaslav.
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