Cable channels pour it on with all the right movies

June 16, 1993|By Kansas City Star

It could be the answer to a movie lover's prayers.

This summer the country's two premium movies-only cable channels, Movie Channel and Cinemax, are showing films like there's no tomorrow.

The Movie Channel is running what it calls "the biggest, no-repeat movie marathon in TV history." It will show 423 movies this month without repeating one.

Cinemax is in the early stretch of a four-month "Summer of 1,001 movies." The entire Cinemax inventory of movie titles for this year consists of only 1,500 titles.

So why are these pay channels, which sometimes show the same movie six times a month, acting like lean, mean movie machines?

The Movie Channel wants to snare people who are sick of network reruns; Cinemax is out to please its cable systems and loyal watchers. And besides, for whatever reason, they've run the promotions before -- with pretty good results.

"It definitely had a positive side in terms of viewing, and it had a positive side for sales and marketing," said Joanne Bouffard for the Movie Channel and its big brother, Showtime.

"We're trying to take advantage of the changes in viewing in the summer," said Ms. Bouffard, vice president of program scheduling and research. "We just get so much more viewing during the summer that we want to focus the attention on what it is we are."

Cinemax spokesmen don't know whether their flood of films has netted more customers, but the old ones like it, and that makes cable systems happy.

The idea for a movie marathon originated four years ago with the Movie Channel. Cinemax started its version last summer, when it offered 1,000 titles over four months.

Until this year the Movie Channel made August its no-repeat month. This time it moved the promotion up to June and scheduled a new gimmick for August. Beginning Aug. 1, subscribers won't have to wait more than five minutes between the end of one movie and the start of another. Earlier, the Movie Channel tested the idea of not making people wait more than five minutes and found the number of viewers who stayed was 25 percent higher.

The Cinemax promotion lasts four months, and there are no plans to extend it to other times of the year. The Movie Channel, however, may hold other marathons.

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