Zaslav brings in Spielberg, Scorsese, Anderson to help curate TCM film lineup after shakeup

Steven Spielberg attends the 55th Annual Cinema Audio Society Awards at InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown on February 16, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

Matt Winkelmeyer | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Warner Bros. Discovery is calling in a filmmaker brain trust to help steer the curation and programming of its cable-TV channel Turner Classic Movies, after a shakeup among management left fans concerned about the network’s future.

“Jaws” director Steven Spielberg, “Goodfellas” helmer Martin Scorsese and “Boogie Nights” filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson officially signed on to provide their input at TCM, the company and filmmakers said on Wednesday. The filmmakers will work closely with Warner Bros. Motion Picture Group chiefs Mike De Luca and Pam Abdy, who are overseeing curation and programming after a series of layoffs and management shakeup at TCM, according to the company.

“We have already begun working on ideas with Mike and Pam, both true film enthusiasts who share a passion and reverence for classic cinema that is the hallmark of the TCM community,” the three filmmakers said in a joint statement on Wednesday. “This unique arrangement, initiated by David Zaslav, reflects his commitment to honoring the TCM legacy while also involving us on curation and programming.”

The inclusion of the filmmakers came after Warner Bros. Discovery employees last week faced another round of layoffs, particularly across its portfolio of cable-TV networks.

Part of that was a major shakeup at TCM, recognized as a place for preservation of classic films and a carefully curated lineup augmented by guest star introductions. The changes had caused concern among movie buffs and those dedicated to film preservation, who voiced their distress on social media.

The filmmakers also applauded that longtime programming chief Charles Tabesh, who was initially set to leave as part of the shakeup, will stay with the network.

David Zaslav, CEO, Warner Bros. Discovery.

Anjali Sundaram | CNBC

Last week, the filmmakers had said in a statement Zaslav contacted and reassured them, and they were committed to working with the company for TCM’s future.

Since the 2022 merger between Warner Bros. and Discovery, the company has been undergoing a number of cost-cutting initiatives, including layoffs and cutting back on content spending.

In the months leading up to the job cuts and changes at the networks, including TCM, Zaslav and Spielberg held conversations about TCM’s future, according to a person familiar with the matter. Zaslav also initiated the conversation with Spielberg, Scorsese and Anderson last week.

Spielberg and Anderson and joined Zaslav on a panel during the TCM Classic Film Festival in April about film preservation efforts, according to media reports.

Warner Bros. Discovery and its film chiefs touted the company’s increased investment in TCM recently.

“TCM is a cultural treasure which WBD is fully committed to safeguarding, supporting, and investing in for the future. This year, TCM’s content investment has grown by 30% and we plan to build on that in future years,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “That said, TCM is not immune to the very real pressure on the entire linear ecosystem, but we have taken steps to ensure that we stay true to the mission of the network – bringing more titles to the air, driving content investment, and preserving and protecting the culture of cinema.”

The increased investment will go toward licensing new films and bringing a wider roster to the network, according to the person familiar with the matter.

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