New York -- Looking to draw a younger audience and
appointment viewers, American Movie Classics is debuting a new on-air look and revamped
format this week that will include 10 branded program blocks featuring celebrity guest
hosts such as Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton and Lauren Bacall.
In addition to the update of its video network today (March
8), AMC will also launch broadband content, as well as premiering its redesigned World
Wide Web site, according to AMC Networks president Kate McEnroe.
At a press briefing last week explaining the changes, AMC
general manager Noreen O'Loughlin said, "We are crafting an identity that will
enlighten and entertain while working on multiple platforms."
AMC is taking a lesson from its sister services, Romance
Classics and AMC's American Pop!, in that it wants to be accessible to consumers on a
variety of platforms -- from the TV set, to the Web, to high-speed cable modems -- McEnroe
Parent company Cablevision Systems Corp.'s cable homes with
high-speed modems will get AMC's broadband content immediately.
American Pop! is already offering broadband programming for
high-speed cable modems to Cablevision and Comcast Corp. subscribers.
American Pop! actually launched on the Web, and with
broadband content, last year. It is slated to debut as a full video network sometime later
And Romance Classics is producing a program for broadband, Romancing
AMC's new program schedule and new hosts are meant to make
classic films more relevant to younger viewers and to create a lineup that will foster
appointment viewing, according to Marc Juris, senior vice president of programming.
"We want to communicate the fact that classic movies
are pretty cool," he said.
The changes come at a time during which AMC has taken some
barbs from TV critics for what it charges for its limited movie library.
For example, last month, Knight Ridder's Doug Nye wrote,
"I'm beginning to worry about an old friend -- American Movie Classics. It seems to
be stuck in a rut ... How many times in recent months have you surfed over to AMC only to
see The Glenn Miller Story, Lana Turner's Imitation of Life or some Audie
Murphy Western being run again?"
And the New York Post's Adam Buckman recently
complained in a column, "Few things are more vexing to a movie fan than turning on
American Movie Classics and not finding a classic movie."
In contrast, AMC's rival, Turner Classic Movies, is a
Claiming that it will air more movies per week now, AMC
will run its new branded program blocks during the same time slot each week, offering
information and perspective on movies, stars and filmmakers, officials said.
As part of that effort, Quaid will host "John
Waynesdays," which will feature a John Wayne movie every Wednesday night; Thornton
will host "Film Preservation Classics" Saturdays; and Bacall will anchor
"Hollywood Fashion Collection" Monday nights. Another one of the 10 blocks,
"Thursday Night with Oscar," will have a celebrity host who hasn't been
announced yet. Quaid, Thornton and Bacall will join AMC's current host roster, which
includes primetime host Bob Dorian and daytime host Nick Clooney.
TCM general manager Tom Karsch said AMC's announcements
last week are a compilation of the changes that it has been making to its schedule over
time, noting that Quaid has been hosting the Wayne movies already, and that some of AMC's
program blocks have been in place.
"Appointment movies and movie franchises are something
that we have been doing since day one," Karsch said. "It's a strategy that's
worked for TCM. I'm not surprised [that AMC is doing it]."
To kick off its new look and Web site, today (March 8) at
10 p.m., AMC is presenting a simultaneous live on-air/online chat in which director Martin
Scorsese and Thornton will discuss the classic Jimmy Stewart Western Winchester 73,
which will air at the same time.
For its broadband debut, AMC has also created a broadband
event to accompany its March film festival, "From Grit to Grace: A Celebration of
Hollywood's Leading Men," as well as producing an interactive biography on the life
and career of Cary Grant entitled Cary Grant: A Celebration of a Leading Man.
As part of its plans, AMC has several new original series
in the wings this year. The Hollywood Fashion Machine will debut April 26 as a
weekly half-hour series, while The Lot, a four-part series on a 1930s movie studio,will premiere in August.
AMC is also looking for an aftermarket, and possibly to
syndicate, Remember WENN,the show that it canceled last year, which is
being replaced by The Lot.