"TCM Film Vault" listed anywhere?

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I am fairly new to TCM. I would love to be able to say a film is part of the TCM library when discussing films, to call it a TCM title, or limit my discussion to films owned by TCM.  However, so far I see no way to see a list of what those are, or a database to check to see if a film qualifies. It would be nice to be able to do so, in order to to keep a discussion TCM oriented. It might come down to my having a flawed understanding of the terms "TCM library" "TCM vault" and "TCM film" in the final analysis.  Any easy answers or suggestions? Thanks in advance.

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I saw this posted while I was at work almost 10 hours ago, and I thought, "Well, somebody will surely respond to this before I get home", but no! 

The TCM "library", from what I've gleaned from reading the rules for what's allowed in the Programming Challenge and from a couple of articles I've read about Ted Turner's original acquisition, at least originally consisted of, I think:

* Pretty much everything from MGM through 1986

* Everything that was controlled by United Artists when MGM bought them out around 1982

* Pretty much everything from Warner Bros. before 1948 or 1949 (always forget the year)

* Pretty much everything from RKO

* And while not officially in "the library", I guess, TCM theoretically can air any film that's fallen into the public domain any time they want.

There are individual film exceptions to all the above. For example, TCM doesn't appear to have the rights to Beyond the Forest, Bette Davis' final film for WB (until Baby Jane), in which she says "What a dump!" (supposedly - I've never actually seen it), which I think are controlled by the heirs of the novel from which it's adapted or something. I'm also wondering what the heck has happened to the 1938 WB film Angels with Dirty Faces, which TCM used to show multiple times each year but hasn't shown for eight years now. Maybe TCM's programmers have just forgotten about it, but when a film doesn't air for that long, I always wonder if there are some behind-the-scenes rights issues. On the flip side, I think they've added films to the original library over the years that don't necessarily conform to the above definitions. I think maybe The Iron Petticoat, a Cold War romantic comedy pairing Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn that had been completely out of circulation for decades because of rights issues is something that's now in the TCM library.

I'm unaware that there's an existing list anywhere. TCM certainly doesn't provide us that information! If you go to one of the Programming Challenge threads (the newest one is usually pinned with a sticky to the top of his board), the first post or an early post in that thread provides links to databases of many of the films that are "in library".

Hope that helps! 

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Don't be fooled. There is no vault. TCM's "library" is an ever-changing list of films for which it has licensing agreements. Generally these agreements cover much of what used to be in the MGM library, but that never was inclusive, and specific agreements for "new" film versions (restorations, etc.) are necessary. The library generally includes films from MGM, Warners, RKO (it was bought by Warners years ago) and also includes some public domain films. This is why Paramount and Fox films are relatively rare on TCM. A licensing agreement generally runs between 5-7 years for airing on TCM only. A licensing agreement can be made with an individual or a corporate entity to include one or a number of films. Once the agreement date has been passed, the film cannot be shown again on TCM.

Silent films can be tricky. Although many silent films are in the public domain (all films dated 1922 or before), the copyrighted music score is not included and must be licensed. For example, I have licensing agreements with TCM for several of my restorations projects where I have commissioned a new score and own the rights. Therefore TCM can air the Marion Davies films, Enchantment with score by Donald Sosin and The Bride's Play with score by Ben Model. Ben produced his own restoration of Davies' When Knighthood Was in Flower and has his own licensing agreement with TCM.


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It's true that TCM doesn't have its own "vault" or "library."  But there's a nuance that often gets lost in saying that TCM must rent all of the films it shows.  That may be true, but there's an explanation for why it's easier for TCM to get some MGM, Warner, and RKO films, and why those films therefore show up much more often on TCM than, say, films from Fox or Paramount or Universal.  The difference comes from the history of TCM and its ownership.

Starting in 1986, following Ted Turner's purchase of MGM, Turner Entertainment owned a library of films that included all pre-1986 MGM films, all pre-1950 Warner Bros. films, the RKO film library, and some other film/TV assets, all of which had been owned by the MGM studio.  Turner quickly sold the MGM studio itself to Kirk Kerkorian, but he retained the film library for Turner Entertainment.  (The films were often shown in the pre-TCM days on TBS and TNT, Ted's "superstations.")

When TCM was launched in 1994 by Turner Entertainment, the Turner Entertainment film library, which included the film assets noted above, was made available for showing on TCM.  Indeed, it was discussed at the time that Ted Turner created TCM as a showcase for the films he owned.  I don't know whether TCM had to pay Turner Entertainment for showing the films at that time, but except for internal corporate bookkeeping, it wouldn't have mattered much because TCM was owned by Turner Entertainment; it would have been taking money out of one corporate pocket and putting it in another.

In 1996, Turner Entertainment, including its film library and TCM, merged with Time Warner, which continues to own those assets.  While it may be true, as many have described, that TCM must pay to rent the films owned by Time Warner (including those from the former Turner Entertainment library), it would be a matter of TCM paying its corporate sibling.  Presumably, arranging to rent films from a library that is, like TCM, owned by Time Warner would be easier (and perhaps cheaper) than renting films from an entirely unrelated corporate entity, like Fox or Universal.  In addition, the Time Warner library contains more films than the old Turner Entertainment library -- presumably also the post-1950 Warner Bros. films, among others -- so it seems likely that TCM now has an easier time licensing a greater number of films from its corporate sibling.

That said, it's not as though TCM shows just anything from the Time Warner library.  For example, TCM used to show old Warner and MGM cartoons very regularly, with one of Ben Mankiewicz's first hosting jobs being an excellent Saturday morning cartoon program.  Unfortunately, TCM no longer shows those cartoons, so I assume they're no longer being licensed.  Of course, it probably wasn't a licensing problem, but more a matter of TCM and/or the TW library deciding for other reasons that the cartoons should no longer be part of TCM's line-up. 

So while TCM may indeed rent films from Time Warner, in that money from TCM's budget is transferred to the TW film library, it's probably not the same kind of transaction as renting from an unrelated corporation.

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