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How to make a classic movie schedule fresh and entertaining


MovieMadness

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Many comment on the schedule when a new one comes up on how fresh it is or how it is stale perhaps. This post is simply a mathematical way to evaluate a movie schedule and determine how fresh it is.

 

Unfortunately there is probably no easy way to do this, however if one had a database of all the TCM schedules and could determine how long it has been since a movie has been played, it would be simple to do.

 

As an example, let's take an easy schedule of only three movies-

 

Movie A

Movie B

Movie C

 

Each movie was played 3 months ago.

 

Another 3 movie schedule has them played 1 year ago.

 

Movie C

Movie D

Movie F

 

Which is the fresher schedule? I think everyone would say the second one is because the movies haven't been played in a year and we saw the other ones played 3 months ago.

 

Mathematically you could give the first schedule a score of 9 (3 + 3 + 3) and the second schedule would get a score of 36 (12 + 12 + 12).

 

The higher the number the more fresh the schedule.

 

I imagine this current Oscar month has a fairly low number compared to some other months. Thus a lot of grumbling and unhappy campers.

 

Some movies I do think TCM has to play fairly often, like Bogie movies. However there has to be a mix of those rarely played and those that are very popular.

 

I would be very surprised if TCM does not have the last date a movie has been played somewhere, and could come up with an average time since the last playing for a months worth. It sounds boring to have to do but there has to be a way to determine and rank a schedule.

 

 

 

 

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Many comment on the schedule when a new one comes up on how fresh it is or how it is stale perhaps. This post is simply a mathematical way to evaluate a movie schedule and determine how fresh it is.

 

Unfortunately there is probably no easy way to do this, however if one had a database of all the TCM schedules and could determine how long it has been since a movie has been played, it would be simple to do.

 

As an example, let's take an easy schedule of only three movies-

 

Movie A

Movie B

Movie C

 

Each movie was played 3 months ago.

 

Another 3 movie schedule has them played 1 year ago.

 

Movie C

Movie D

Movie F

 

Which is the fresher schedule? I think everyone would say the second one is because the movies haven't been played in a year and we saw the other ones played 3 months ago.

 

Mathematically you could give the first schedule a score of 9 (3 + 3 + 3) and the second schedule would get a score of 36 (12 + 12 + 12).

 

The higher the number the more fresh the schedule.

 

I imagine this current Oscar month has a fairly low number compared to some other months. Thus a lot of grumbling and unhappy campers.

 

Some movies I do think TCM has to play fairly often, like Bogie movies. However there has to be a mix of those rarely played and those that are very popular.

 

I would be very surprised if TCM does not have the last date a movie has been played somewhere, and could come up with an average time since the last playing for a months worth. It sounds boring to have to do but there has to be a way to determine and rank a schedule.

 

I believe one also needs to factor in the time the movie was played.   e.g. if a movie was shown between Midnight - 7:00 AM,  subtract half the points.

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I've been working on a few different lists for my own personal use, and the current one I am working on is actually the previous TCM programming lists.  I couldn't help with frequency and air times as I stripped those out to make it more concise.  I couldn't help but notice though that in the last four years there were over 19,000 different time slots on TCM, including original material, shorts, and non-movie content.  I can confirm that they do indeed play their fair share of "Oscar" material (FWIW, probably not much).  :lol:

 

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if one had a database of all the TCM schedules and could determine how long it has been since a movie has been played, it would be simple to do.

 

 

We have nearly all schedules from 2003 to present. We place information into database so that we will know which movies have aired on TCM. This is important for TCM Programming Challenge as there is limit on number of Premieres allowed in each schedule.

 

It is necessary to use Word Processor to make schedule fit neatly into database. It requires approx. one hour to do each month's schedule.

 

I believe that it would be necessary to use schedules for ten years at least in order to establish good baseline for your research.

 

That is minimum of one-hundred-and-twenty hours of good work prior to beginning analysis which you suggest. 

 

I must wonder how you would weight results.

 

Is primetime schedule "fresh" if movies have not appeared in primetime for ten years but they have all aired in previous month on various days at Midnight, 6:00 A.M. 11:00 A.M. or 4 P.M.? 

 

Posit a schedule of three movies which all aired two years previous but have not been scheduled on same night for ten years.

Posit different schedule of three movies which have not aired in three years but were scheduled on same evening in several previous years

Which is "fresher"?

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I must wonder how you would weight results.

 

Maybe something like this?

 

Last 4 years (repetition versus time slots occupied)

 

1x - 3525

2x - 3180

3x - 2703

4x - 2124 (median point)

5x - 1670

6x - 1374

7x - 1022

8x - 744

9x - 585

10x - 530

11x - 550

12x - 336

13x - 299

14x - 238

15x - 120 [15x each of Foreign Correspondent (1940), Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967), Guys And Dolls (1955), Mister Roberts (1955), Stella Dallas (1937), The Apartment (1960), The Awful Truth (1937), The Caine Mutiny (1954)]

 

16x - 112 [16x each of Born Yesterday (1950), Father Of The Bride (1950), Gaslight (1944), Gypsy (1962), Key Largo (1948), Strangers On A Train (1951), The Maltese Falcon (1941)]

 

17x - 85 [17x each of From Here To Eternity (1953), Funny Girl (1968), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), You Can't Take It With You (1938)]

 

And the two winners:

 

18x - 18 airings of Casablanca

19x - 19 airings of North By Northwest

 

Edit: updated to fix previous errors.  Now just needs missing months.

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Maybe something like this?

 

Last 4 years (repetition versus time slots occupied)

 

1x - 3488

2x - 3158

 

 

Am I understanding correctly that your database indicates 3,488 movies aired once only and 3,158 aired twice and so on?

 

I believe that it would be greatly desirable to have at a minimum dates of appearance. A movie which has aired once each year in previous four years would be: 4X and movie which was Premiere three months prior and has appeared in each month since that time would be: 3x. I believe movies with recent airings will not seem as "fresh" as movies with higher number of airings three years previous.

 

I must wonder also how you rank Premieres. Are they: 0x?

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Am I understanding correctly that your database indicates 3,488 movies aired once only and 3,158 aired twice and so on?

 

I believe that it would be greatly desirable to have at a minimum dates of appearance. A movie which has aired once each year in previous four years would be: 4X and movie which was Premiere three months prior and has appeared in each month since that time would be: 3x. I believe movies with recent airings will not seem as "fresh" as movies with higher number of airings three years previous.

 

I must wonder also how you rank Premieres. Are they: 0x?

 

I am only tallying up the raw titles [title (year)], and the amount of times they occurred.  1x would be only once in the 4 year period, not once a year (although per year would be easy to figure out too).  That may be movies, or it may be anything else.  It includes all the program content, as listed on the website's Monthly page.  Below are the months represented.  There were some holes in my sample, but they are accounted for by missing months:

 

2011-03

2011-04

2011-05

2011-06

2011-07

2011-08

2011-09

2011-10

2011-11

2011-12

2012-01

2012-02

2012-04

2012-05

2012-06

2012-08

2012-09

2012-10

2012-11

2013-01

2013-02

2013-03

2013-04

2013-05

2013-06

2013-07

2013-08

2013-09

2013-10

2013-12

2014-01

2014-02

2014-03

2014-06

2014-07

2014-08

2014-09

2014-10

2015-01

2015-02

2015-03

2015-04

2015-05

 

As you can see, the past schedule has some holes in it, but for the most part I got a pretty good overall representative sample.  it is about 3.5 years of material in a 4 year period.  If you know of a place where I can fill in some of the missing months, I could add those in.  Doing this analysis wasn't my goal, but it fit in easily so I just went ahead and did it for here.

 

P.S. Premieres (at only one occurrence measured in the 4-year period) would show up as 1x, but more than that if they repeated the movie after that.  I didn't differentiate between Premieres or other showings, but I could.  This is an iterative process which I will most likely revisit.

 

P.P.S Going through the 1x numbers, I saw an entry here and there that were the same thing, but had different air dates.  This wasn't that common though, and considering that there are a handful of missing months, that dwarfs any errors that I found.  But the high numbers (overplayed selections) are all positive matches, which were kind of my point, are irrefutable.  Adding in the missing months and correcting the types of errors I saw would most likely only lower the 1x, 2x, and 3x numbers a bit.  I would expect it to still balance off at around 4x or 5x though, as 4x was the numerical median for the distribution of time slots, and I would expect new entries (est. at about 2500) to add uniformly across the board.

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If you know of a place where I can fill in some of the missing months, I could add those in.  

 

P.S. Premieres (at only one occurrence measured in the 4-year period) would show up as 1x, but more than that if they repeated the movie after that.  I didn't differentiate between Premieres or other showings, but I could.  This is an iterative process which I will most likely revisit.

 

 

I may be able to provide the months you require. They are raw .txt files and need much work in formatting.

 

I have checked now and it seems as if files can not be attached to Personal Messages and so I would have to send them by e-mail. 

 

I hope you will please check that I have been accurate in assessing your needs:

March, July and December 2012
November 2013
April, May, November and December 2014
 
You will have to send to me via Personal Message your e-mail address so that I can send them if you wish.
 
What I meant by counting Premieres is when they appear in schedule being analyzed to determine how "fresh" it is. I am assuming that your calculation would be total of previous showings of each movie in schedule. 
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I may be able to provide the months you require. They are raw .txt files and need much work in formatting.

 

I have checked now and it seems as if files can not be attached to Personal Messages and so I would have to send them by e-mail. 

 

I hope you will please check that I have been accurate in assessing your needs:

March, July and December 2012
November 2013
April, May, November and December 2014
 
You will have to send to me via Personal Message your e-mail address so that I can send them if you wish.
 
What I meant by counting Premieres is when they appear in schedule being analyzed to determine how "fresh" it is. I am assuming that your calculation would be total of previous showings of each movie in schedule. 

 

 

Hi, those months are correct.  Thank you for providing this.

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Hi, those months are correct.  Thank you for providing this.

 

You two are doing some interesting work here.   One question;  Would the type of schedule you're proposing allow for unplanned tributes.  e.g. say when someone dies? 

 

I only ask because doing so increases the odds of a 'repeat'.   

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The main problem with all this is that nowhere has TCM ever said their goal was to play seldom-seen movies. That is what long-time TCM viewers seem to think (and want). But the TCM business model requires them to re-use the titles they have available to them. 

 

Also, we are implying (even directly suggesting) the programmers are not doing a good job, and probably to their way of thinking, they are doing a great job given the limitations of their budget.

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The main problem with all this is that nowhere has TCM ever said their goal was to play seldom-seen movies. That is what long-time TCM viewers seem to think (and want). But the TCM business model requires them to re-use the titles they have available to them. 

 

Also, we are implying (even directly suggesting) the programmers are not doing a good job, and probably to their way of thinking, they are doing a great job given the limitations of their budget.

Why does everyone assume that their budget is so limited?  There are tons of old films that are rarely screened that I would like to see.   And not just Paramount and Universal films either.  

I think it is only fitting for the true TCM fan to try to push the boundaries and suggest some variety go into the schedule now and then.  Why shouldn't we?  And if the programmers love their job they would want the same and will try to work little budgetary miracles.  They often do.

I do think TCM is the best thing on the tube.  I'm sure most of you feel the same or we wouldn't be spending so much time in these forums. 

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Why does everyone assume that their budget is so limited?  There are tons of old films that are rarely screened that I would like to see.   And not just Paramount and Universal films either.  

I think it is only fitting for the true TCM fan to try to push the boundaries and suggest some variety go into the schedule now and then.  Why shouldn't we?  And if the programmers love their job they would want the same and will try to work little budgetary miracles.  They often do.

I do think TCM is the best thing on the tube.  I'm sure most of you feel the same or we wouldn't be spending so much time in these forums. 

Their budget is less this year than it had been in the past. There were recent lay-offs at the parent company, Turner, and that did affect TCM to some degree.

 

But don't get me wrong-- I am not using budget as an excuse when programming is not fully up to par. In the 'May schedule is up' thread I did say the morning selections/themes could be more innovative. 

 

Still, I think they are doing the best given what they have to work with...and maybe instead of the fans (message board users) pushing too much, the better approach might be to provide positive feedback when TCM does go outside the box and find rare titles outside the Turner Library for us to see. If we keep encouraging that kind of programming, it might help more than just being overly critical and telling them how to do their jobs.

 

Just my two and a half cents here...

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Their budget is less this year than it had been in the past. There were recent lay-offs at the parent company, Turner, and that did affect TCM to some degree.

 

But don't get me wrong-- I am not using budget as an excuse when programming is not fully up to par. In the 'May schedule is up' thread I did say the morning selections/themes could be more innovative. 

Your points are well taken.  I'm hardly an expert on cable tv budgets.  That said there are some movie channels in Canada ... in Canada with its relatively tiny population ... that manage to show current films, or films from the 70's and 80's 24/7.  Their revenues would be minuscule by comparison to TCM but they manage.  

Perhaps it is not as difficult to fund programming for TCM as we often imagine.  So, I for one take full advantage of TCM's own 'Suggest a Movie' forum and try to suggest films that may not readily come to mind.  Whether they pay any attention to it I'm not sure.

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Perhaps it is not as difficult to fund programming for TCM as we often imagine.  So, I for one take full advantage of TCM's own 'Suggest a Movie' forum and try to suggest films that may not readily come to mind.  Whether they pay any attention to it I'm not sure.

I guess it doesn't hurt to try. 

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[updated]

Okay, I got the rest of the results in.   This is a breakdown of the content played on TCM between 2011-03 and 2015-05.


times shown vs. time slots vs. (unique content)

1x -  3716 (3716)
2x -  3516 (1758)    *median point for all program content = 4163
3x -  2808 (936)
4x -  2376 (594)     **median point for all time slots = 11230
5x -  1965 (393)
6x -  1536 (256)
7x -  1302 (186)
8x -  968   (121)
9x -  846   (94)
10x - 730  (73)
11x - 517  (47)
12x - 504  (42)
13x - 351  (27)
14x - 308  (22)
15x - 285  (19)
16x - 304  (19)
17x - 170  (10)
18x - 72      (4)
19x - 38      (2)
20x - 60      (3)
21x - 63      (3)
22x - 22      (1)


22461 total time slots, (8326 unique)

(minus MGM Parade episodes and Now Playing episodes, which I deleted from the results due to ambiguity, amounting to 300 or so fewer time slots)




Here are the most commonly played between 2011-03 and 2015-05


15x:
Ben-Hur (1959)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Friendly Persuasion (1956)
Giant (1956)
Gigi (1958)
Grand Hotel (1932)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
How the West Was Won (1962)
In The Good Old Summertime (1949)
Lassie Come Home (1943)
Love Affair (1939)
Mogambo (1953)
Red River (1948)
Sex And The Single Girl (1964)
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone (1961)
The Searchers (1956)


16x:
A Face In The Crowd (1957)
A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
Around The World In 80 Days (1956)
Born Yesterday (1950)
East Of Eden (1955)
Father Of The Bride (1950)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
Key Largo (1948)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Now, Voyager (1942)
On The Waterfront (1954)
Singin' In The Rain (1952)
The Awful Truth (1937)
The Big Sleep (1946)
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
The Third Man (1949)
The Three Musketeers (1948)
The Time Machine (1960)
You Can't Take It With You (1938)


17x:
Funny Girl (1968)
Guys And Dolls (1955)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Little Women (1949)
Mister Roberts (1955)
Stella Dallas (1937)
The Apartment (1960)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Way We Were (1973)


18x:
Gaslight (1944)
Gypsy (1962)
The Great Race (1965)
To Be or Not to Be (1942)


19x:
My Fair Lady (1964)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)


20x:
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Strangers On A Train (1951)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)


21x:
Casablanca (1942)
From Here To Eternity (1953)
Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)


22x:
North By Northwest (1959)

 

 

BTW, Gone With the Wind will have been played 11x between 2011-03 and 2015-05.
 

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You do are doing some interesting work here.   One question;  Would the type of schedule you're proposing allow for unplanned tributes.  e.g. say when someone dies? 

 

I only ask because doing so increases the odds of a 'repeat'.   

 

Yes, that opens up a can of worms.  I am just going by the previous and future "pending" schedules here.  Whether or not my info is accurate all depends on whether or not they updated their monthly schedules prior to their air dates.

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15x:
A Face In The Crowd (1957)
An American in Paris (1951)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Giant (1956)
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967)
In The Good Old Summertime (1949)
Lassie Come Home (1943)
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Mogambo (1953)
Red River (1948)
Sex And The Single Girl (1964)
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
The Man With The Golden Arm (1955)
The Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone (1961)
The Searchers (1956)
The Sundowners (1960)
The Time Machine (1960)

 

Some of these were played so often because of guest programmer selections and memorial tributes. A FACE IN THE CROWD aired when Patricia Neal passed away and also when Andy Griffith died. Plus it showed up almost every year for Neal's birthday tributes. 

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MovieCollectorOH those are some interesting numbers, I think in order to gauge a schedule it is also important how long it has been since the movie was last played, not always how many times it has played.

 

If a movie played a lot in 2013 and didn't play in 2014 it should count the same as a movie that only played once in 2013. Otherwise it gets too complicated to try and calculate a grade for a schedule.

 

So if we had ten moves on a schedule and all of them played exactly a year ago that would be 12 times 10 which equals 120. Take an average for them and you get 12 months which is pretty good.

 

It would be interesting to know how long on average this Oscar month the movies were last played. Then compare that to the March schedule, etc.

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Topbilled there is a lot of discussion in here about schedules, it is not like I pulled this out of thin air. i think most viewers probably want to see movies that haven't been seen in a while, this isn't that shocking. I wish TCM had a last date shown on the website so we could easily see this data. They already have the next airing dates, it is easy enough to program it to keep the last one.

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Still, I think they are doing the best given what they have to work with...and maybe instead of the fans (message board users) pushing too much, the better approach might be to provide positive feedback when TCM does go outside the box and find rare titles outside the Turner Library for us to see. If we keep encouraging that kind of programming, it might help more than just being overly critical and telling them how to do their jobs.

 

Brilliant comment! ...

 

Not to so sound goody-goody, but I think it's amazing that TCM is still around and remaining relatively unchanged IMHO from the way it was from the beginning. The excellence of TCM is clearly an anomaly considering what television has become today.  Maybe the thought that it will one day no longer be here is too vivid for me. I do not participate in the many threads that deal with programming and I sometimes find it off putting the amount of criticism TCM gets, especially when said criticism is less on the constructive side and more on the just plain bitchy side. The above comment reflects my own view and I couldn't have said it better.

==

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Why does everyone assume that their budget is so limited?  

 

 

I have read that they were anomaly in that all other channels receive income from advertising and income from carriage fees but TCM was designed to operate on income from carriage fees only. It is by this that TCM had small fraction of budget when compared to other channels. 

 

I have no inside knowledge of their operation but I suspect that advertising of DVDs offsets license fees which they must pay for movies within library which they once owned and so they remain with majority of operating budget being carriage fees only.

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MovieCollectorOH those are some interesting numbers, I think in order to gauge a schedule it is also important how long it has been since the movie was last played, not always how many times it has played.

 

If a movie played a lot in 2013 and didn't play in 2014 it should count the same as a movie that only played once in 2013. Otherwise it gets too complicated to try and calculate a grade for a schedule.

 

So if we had ten moves on a schedule and all of them played exactly a year ago that would be 12 times 10 which equals 120. Take an average for them and you get 12 months which is pretty good.

 

It would be interesting to know how long on average this Oscar month the movies were last played. Then compare that to the March schedule, etc.

 

First of all I just wanted to say that TCM is my favorite channel too, and I don't think I would keep my satellite subscription without them.  I appreciate them too.  My favorite channel by far!

 

Having said that, the list I have represents all the monthly titles, but is only about 7/8 complete as far as corresponding airing dates go.  So that info might not tell the whole story.  It would be easy to tell which movies have all the dates and which don't though.  You just may not get the answer for the movie you are wondering about.  I could export that list though, It is just more info than we could squeeze into here.

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