Spielberg, Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson Fight To Save Turner Classic Movies

Just a few months ago, Steven Spielberg sat onstage beside his longtime composer John Williams and talked about his continued film education—which now amounts to watching Turner Classic Movies. “I’ve always looked back in order to look forward,” he said. Spielberg mentioned TCM by name, at which point a man in the audience let out a loud whoop, triggering a robust round of applause. “Thank you!” Spielberg shouted back. “Ben Mankiewicz, thank you for coming!” 

The ebullient shouter was not actually Mankiewicz, one of TCM’s most popular hosts, but that’s why the joke landed with the crowd of cinephiles. The network is beloved for its contemporary curation of older movies. It’s more than a TV channel. It’s a community.

This week, that community was shaken when Warner Bros. Discovery, the parent company that owns the network, laid off some of TCM’s top leadership, some of whom had been there for decades. It appeared to foreshadow a bleak future—or perhaps none at all—for the classic movie channel. A day later, IndieWire reported that Spielberg and fellow filmmaking heavy-hitters Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson had personally reached out to Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav to intercede on behalf of TCM.

If anyone can save TCM, it’s these three.

A source close to the situation said there may be a development soon, but right now TCM and its legacy of showcasing films that might otherwise fade into obscurity remains uncertain. 

After the layoffs, Variety reported that Kathleen Finch, chief content officer of the networks group for Warner Bros. Discovery, wrote an internal memo to staff affirming the company’s support for TCM. “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. As storytellers, that is our legacy, and we will continue bringing the history and impact of classic films to life on-air and in other ways,” she wrote.

Even Zaslav has expressed enthusiasm for the network in April, appearing at the 14th TCM Classic Film Festival alongside Spielberg and Anderson, as well as Mankiewcz. “I’m a fan just like you,” Zaslav told the crowd, according to Deadline. “If I wasn’t here, I would be sitting with you. I watch Turner Classic Movies all the time. It’s the history of our country, the motion pictures.”

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