Wednesday, March 9, 2016

TV and the Movies

Television was declared to be the enemy of movies back in the 1950's. While they eventually became part of the same entertainment ecosystem, movies and television were originally at odds. The freeze between the two industries began to thaw in the late 1950's when movie studios saw television as a way to make quick cash from old forgotten films. For some films, television proved to be a great way to gain legendary status despite being rejected by theatrical audiences.

The most famous such film was The Wizard of Oz. The film had disappointed at the box office in 1939. In fact, despite owning the rights to make more Oz related films, Louis B. Mayer had been so disappointed in the film that he sold future film rights to his friend Walt Disney. The film wouldn't be considered a classic until after it began airing on television beginning in 1956.

Similarly, It's A Wonderful Life was dead on arrival in theaters. After decades of repeated airings due to the film's public domain status, the movie became a holiday tradition. The film's copyright was reactivated after the current rights holder purchased the copyrights to the script and the underlying music which were still active. Without a doubt, those rights would not have been valuable had the film not gotten exposure as a public domain staple on television.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was another film that hadn't set the world on fire during its initial theatrical run. Originally produced by the Quaker Oats company as a feature length ad for a new line of chocolate bars, the film was unceremoniously dumped into theaters after the candy line was canceled. Quaker Oats, uninterested in the movie business, sold the film to Warner Brothers, who turned the film into a classic with its frequent television releases.