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Tip 3 of 25 - Why TCM Underground Is An Untapped Goldmine

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In my opinion, the TCM Underground brand is an untapped goldmine and one of the most valuable concepts under the TCM umbrella.



Why? Because its films can appeal to a spectrum of ages and demographics - even transcending those who would call themselves ‘classic movie fans.’ TCM Underground can resonate with several demographics:

- Today’s teens and college students have a connection with ‘vintage’ culture - look at all the 14-year-olds wearing clothing referencing brands and TV shows that went off the air before they were even born. If you’re in this group, you love to stay up late and hang out with friends on Saturday nights: why not watch a ‘weird old movie’ on TV?

- Horror fandom is in the midst of a lovefest with 1980s horror films: filmmakers are even releasing some films on VHS again because fans like the static and lines on the screen. TCM Underground is the only place on television for horror fans to see older films that grossed less than $50 million at the box office.

- Of course, TCM Underground doesn’t just show American psychotronic schlock horror but also showcases foreign films like HAUSU and POSSESSION along with unique ‘time capsule’ films like ALPHABET CITY and BREAKIN’. These are films that are outside of TCM’s usual oeuvre but deserve to be discussed by modern film bloggers and critics.

- Also, TCM Underground shows unique short films between features, dealing with topics as disparate as the drug wars and Tupperware. These shorts are not shown anywhere else on television and deserve to be acknowledged.



TCM Underground is like a sort of college course in alternative cinema. Every week, you will experience four hours of entertainment - sometimes shocking, sometimes silly, sometimes thought-provoking, but always unique.



I see TCM Underground as the Adult Swim to TCM’s Cartoon Network, a brand capable of generating buzz and becoming appointment television. However, the brand has not been supported by marketing since its initial launch in 2006. The TCM Underground Facebook page has a whopping ~700 fans.



Through some targeted marketing efforts, TCM Underground can broaden its audience.



1) Get a host.

Rob Zombie ‘hosted’ TCM Underground’s first season - if by ‘hosting’ you mean ‘read a teleprompter full of film facts in a dull monotone voice.’ Get a host with passion for this films, someone with a strong opinion who can tell you why these films are awesome. This presenter should do things differently than RO or BM would - using snark, sarcasm, and hyperbole to tell the viewer why tonight’s next film is awesome.



There is only one person perfect for this role: Millie DeChirico - TCM’s VP of programming and the person who programs TCM Underground. She obviously loves these films or she wouldn’t put them on the air, right?



2) Get involved with the college market.

Get college reps and set up viewing parties on campuses. If the campus has a movie theater or auditorium, get them to have a TCM Underground party every week. Provide promotional materials (posters, T-shirts, etc.) for colleges to distribute to hype upcoming broadcasts.



Optional: Provide resources for professors who wish to integrate TCM Underground into their curriculum. (especially for time capsule films like FIVE ON THE BLACK HAND SIDE).



3) Use modern music and bumpers.

Sorry, but the ‘dreadlock guy sticking up posters’ intro is passe, as is the ‘1990s Mountain Dew commercial’ soundtrack. Use the black-and-white animated segments produced by Niceshoes instead - they are edgy without being dated. Also, perhaps the channel could make 30-60 second music videos of Underground films featuring modern independent artists from a variety of genres.



4) Do more outreach.

I know the TCM Underground brand sponsored an art show in 2009 in Atlanta focusing on art inspired by cult cinema - why not take that on the road to various cities? Why not hold an ‘Underground Film Festival’ movie marathon in the vein of the Classic Film Festival (though on a much smaller scale and budget)? Why not roadshow some cult films in the vein of the Road to Hollywood? I know TCM Underground has a different audience than regular TCM - but that doesn’t mean that audience can’t become diehard fans of regular TCM as well.



What do you think? Let me know.

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I agree that TCM needs to mine this market/slot a bit more. For one thing they dont advertise it enough. Another, they need a broader spectrum of movies. I do tune in (usually I record it, rather than "live" watching) if the movie interests me. I think they need to tap the "drive-in" movie market more...

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I like the idea as long as it goes beyond schlock horror movies and starts seriously exploring some of the films and categories (foreign; documentary) that you're mentioning. The Saturday/Sunday overnight time slot brings back the days of midnight movies that were always aimed at younger viewers and featured all sorts of unusual films that would seldom if ever have rated a regular viewing slot.

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Thanks HF for articulating your feelings regarding the Underground-I too think it's under appreciated by many classic movie fans.


>Today?s teens and college students have a connection with ?vintage? culture - look at all the 14-year-olds wearing clothing referencing brands and TV shows


Just as I did as a teen in the 70's with my Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx shirts. Any gateway to appreciating film as an historical art form wins in my book.


>TCM Underground doesn?t just show American psychotronic schlock horror but also showcases (snipped) films that are outside of TCM?s usual oeuvre but deserve to be discussed.


Boy, do I agree 100% with you on this.

While busy concentrating on vintage "classic" film, I actually missed seeing films like the ones you mentioned when they were first shown in the 70's/80's.

TCMUnderground is a great introduction for these films for the classic movie fan, especially expanding a library for the one who has already "seen everything".


>TCM Underground shows unique short films between features, dealing with topics as disparate as the drug wars and Tupperware.


Another genre I enjoy but feel is an untapped resource. These "educational" shorts are a huge hit when screened at film festivals and between features, much more so than Newsreels.

Not only are they little cultural time capsules, but they often display the elements of filmmaking (writing, directing, acting, set design) not yet at the big studio level...much the same appeal as Ed Wood films.


There are "horror" festivals (on 35mm!) held in my town along with a bi monthly series of exactly the sort of films shown on TCM Underground. They are very popular and well attended by all age groups.

It's a lot easier getting 15 y/o TikiKid and her friends to join me at _these_ screenings than our "classic" film night. They often raise their hands in the air and say, "Yay! Color!"


TCM wastes no expense focusing on crappy digital presentations of commonly seen classics. While many people snub their noses at the type of film the Underground shows, I too think it is an untapped market and good introduction for the young classic movie fan.

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Just an odd thought . . .


A lot of what's on Underground is fairly new (post 1960). Surely there are a lot of actors, directors, writers, make-up artists, etc. who worked on those movies still around.


It probably couldn't be done with every movie, but an intro by someone involved would be interesting. I imagine outros where they tell something funny, or harrowing, about one of the scenes.


The main problem I see, as with all the OP's suggestions, is the cost.

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How about a promo where people could receive a minature drive-in mic

and a full-size air sickness bag? Speaking of which, how about showing

Bluebeard with Dick Burton? Overlong, but a lot of Eurolovelies in various

states of undress, including a few with nudidity. It's 2 a.m., so who cares?

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Briggs would be a good Underground host, but John Waters-YES! He seems to really understand the appeal of these films culturally without ridicule or cheap comments.


>including a few with nudidity


I can only hope that was an intentional misspelling.


Funny that my RL parallels this board....yesterday I discovered a cardboard box full of Something Weird? DVDs left by a friend who bought them and thought they were awful. (and rightly knew I'd LOVE them)


SW offers all sorts of exploitation films most likely first shown at drive ins and porn theaters. No, they're not classics in any way, but seeing Betty Page dancing in kooky costume underwear and topless stoned hippies cavorting in the park makes you wonder why these were ever considered "filth".

A few titles:

The Hippie Revolt

Damaged Goods

The Hard Road

Hot Rod Girl



Forbidden Fruit

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>How about a major studio cult movie like Valley of the Dolls?


I saw a DISH TV commercial that said they offer more than 30 commercial-free movie channels. Maybe you could try some of these because TCM can't show all movies for all people.


8 Encore channels, 6 Starz channels, 3 Movieplex channels, Flix, Showtime, Spike, Cinemax, Sundance, CINE, CMT, FOX, HBO, Action, EPIX, EACT, OVTV, REEL, and several other non-commercial channels.

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> {quote:title=TikiSoo wrote:}{quote}Briggs would be a good Underground host, but John Waters-YES! He seems to really understand the appeal of these films culturally without ridicule or cheap comments.



I agree that John Waters would be great. But, Joe Bob would probably be a lot cheaper, and more available.

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>TCM Underground Admin on Facebook " I'm going to try to respond to some of the folks on there."


Yeah, he's gonna post, "Shut the heck up with your lousy suggestions!"




OK just saw the worst exploitation film, "Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell"


This is the alien/vampire/villan:




Unfortunate make up job, isn't it? This pic from the TCM website, so they must have it in their library.

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I agree that TCM should bring a host back to Underground. And that Joe Bob would be a fantastic choice for it.


I still have old tapes of Briggs hosting TNT's Monstervision. A key reason that Briggs would work; in spite of the "Drive In" element of his schtick, Briggs clearly demonstrated the kind of all around understanding of genre film, that he could easily thrive with an eclectic mix of schlock and counter culture genre films. He could do foreign, he could do unusual, he could do intelligencia, you name it and he could fit right in.


I would love to see this. Frankly, I'd love to see Joe Bob back on the air SOMEWHERE. Underground would be a good fit for him.

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Joe Bob also did social commentary, inspired by the films, from an independent point of view. He would at times please, or **** off, both the left and the right, but his commentary isn't really political. I consider that a major asset of his.

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