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The ABC Sunday Night Movie: Wikis


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ABC Sunday Night Movie TV promo

The ABC Sunday Night Movie is a television program that aired on Sunday nights, first for a brief time in 1962 under the title Hollywood Special (although Time Magazine lists this version as The Sunday Night Movie). It then began airing regularly under its more commonly known title from 1964 to 1998, on ABC.



Edits for television

The program presented theatrical feature films airing on TV for the first time. The feature films were edited for content, to remove objectionable material, and for time - one such instance was the first network telecast of John Huston's 1956 film Moby Dick, which runs 117 minutes uncut, and yet was shown in a two-hour time slot with commercials. In many cases, however, the broadcast was expanded from two to two-and-a-half hours to fit a film's longer running time, as in the two 1966 network telecasts of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel (not to be confused with the 1967 videotaped television adaptation of the musical, also broadcast by ABC). The first major network showing of Superman in 1982 was broadcast in two parts with previously unused footage. Extra footage was also added to the ABC broadcast of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1983.

Because the concept of letterboxing films for television had not been introduced yet, the films shown were also pan-and-scanned so the image would fit the standard 4:3 television screen.

James Bond franchise

In 1972, ABC bought the broadcasting rights to the James Bond franchise. The first film broadcast was Goldfinger. Unlike the British broadcasts of the James Bond films, the franchise was not presented in production order.

ABC made edits to the Bond films for violence, sexual content, and so that the films would fit in the time allotted, but perhaps the most controversial of these was the re-edit of the 1969 film On Her Majesty's Secret Service broadcast on the ABC Monday Night Movie.

ABC held the rights to the James Bond films until 1990, when The Living Daylights was the final film aired prior to Turner Broadcasting buying the TV rights to the franchise. The Bond films have also aired on several cable channels not owned by Turner. ABC broadcast the films again as a promotional tie-in when Die Another Day was in theaters in 2002, dubbed as The Bond Picture Show on Saturday nights.

ABC Sunday Movie Special

Occasionally, The ABC Sunday Night Movie would telecast what they termed an ABC Sunday Movie Special, i.e. a film running three hours or more (counting the commercials). When the movie in question was a family film, the telecasts would begin at an earlier hour, so that the film would end at around 11:00 p.m, enabling younger viewers to watch without having to stay up too late. The Movie Specials invariably consisted of blockbusters, such as The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Robe, Oliver!, Patton, and The Ten Commandments. The last-named film continues its television career on ABC today, having become, like The Wizard of Oz, an annual television tradition. It is usually shown during the Palm Sunday or Easter weekend (The Robe, which made its TV debut in 1968, had been shown on Easter weekends by ABC prior to being sold to local television stations). The telecast of Patton, which took place in 1972, was remarkably mature, in that very little of the film's profanity was cut for television.

ABC would occasionally telecast Movie Specials on other days of the week as well, among them Fiddler on the Roof, and Godspell (which was shown on network television as a Thanksgiving season special in 1974).

Method of presenting films throughout the 1960s and 1970s

The ABC Sunday Night Movie had a rather unusual method of presenting their films throughout the 1960s and '70s that movie series on other networks did not have. Except on rare occasions, such as the aforementioned Movie Specials, or films which already had a pre-credits sequence that led directly into the main title and so could not be altered, the opening credits or the title sequence of the particular film in question generally would not be shown until after the movie had ended. Instead, a teaser from the film was shown, whereupon an offscreen announcer (e.g. Joel Crager) would say the name of the film and its stars, and then the credit The ABC Sunday Night Movie would appear. A commercial would then follow, and when the program started up again, one would see the screenwriter and the director's names respectively - superimposed over the film's opening scene in credits manufactured by ABC. At film's end, another commercial would follow, after which, somewhat anti-climactically, the movie's actual title sequence, together with the studio logo, would then be presented, as if the film were starting up again.

The ABC Sunday Night Movie was also famous in the late 1970s for its theme music and brightly colored marquee. The opening has been parodied on the G4 network under the title "Movies That Don't Suck."[1]

Weekday versions

From 1968 to 1970, ABC ran a concurrent movie series on Wednesday nights, under the title The ABC Wednesday Night Movie.

A Tuesday night ABC Movie of the Week featuring only made-for-TV movies was added in 1969. The series was renamed Tuesday Movie of the Week and a Wednesday night Wednesday Movie of the Week, also presenting only made-for-TV films, was added in 1972. Both series continued until 1975.

From 1975 to 1983 (and again, briefly, in 1999) ABC ran a concurrent movie series on Friday nights, under the title The ABC Friday Night Movie.


For many years, until the early 1980s, the announcer for all of ABC's movie shows was network staff announcer Joel Crager. Afterwards, the duties would be handled first by Ernie Anderson, and then others.

Decline due to the advent of cable networks

The advent of HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and others, which broadcast theatrical films on cable before they appear on commercial television, led to the decline (relatively speaking) of theatrical films airing on network TV. Whereas one used to be able to see a theatrical film on prime time commercial network television every night of the week, this is now done only occasionally. Only cable networks exclusively devoted to films, such as American Movie Classics or Turner Classic Movies, show theatrical films in prime time every night; networks such as ABC, NBC and CBS no longer follow this practice.


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