The American Movie Classics channel, or AMC, began as a way to showcase older movies in their original state. It was a response to the trend toward colorizing classic black and white films and a means to bring classic movies to a receptive viewing audience again. The films were shown as they were in cinematic release without commercials and with intermissions where applicable.
Today, the network has changed its line-up considerably and now offers original programming and critically acclaimed series in addition to classic theatrical films. Compelling dramas make up the bulk of the channel’s original programming. The station recently premiered its first unscripted reality television show, so it is continuing to evolve.
The History of AMC
The American Movie Classics channel first came online in 1984, making it one of cable television’s most enduring networks. Its original line of programming relied largely on black and white films from before 1960. It broadcast only in the afternoons and evenings, sometimes sharing a channel with other networks in some regions. Originally a subscription-only service, AMC moved to basic cable packages in 1987, putting the network in more than 39 million homes by 1989.
In 1990, AMC moved to a 24-hour programming schedule and became more organized in its format, grouping movies into themed blocks to appeal to fans of different film genres. With its increased viewership, the network was able to acquire films it had not been able to show before. The station’s owners, Tele-Communications Inc. and the Cablevision property Rainbow Media, took a more active role in preserving and showing rare films. In 1993, the network teamed with Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and hosted its first Film Preservation Festival, a combination of rarely-seen classic films and behind-the-scenes documentaries of how these movies were brought back to life.
That year also brought changes to AMC’s ownership. As Cablevision acquired a controlling stake in the network, Liberty Media worked with Turner Broadcasting System to invest heavily in the company. In 1994, Turner Classic Movies, a rival network, came online. AMC’s executives brought Turner Entertainment to court, alleging that the organization violated an exclusive agreement with AMC to show rare RKO films.
Despite conflicts at the uppermost levels of AMC’s management, its programming in the 1990s grew with the network, featuring its first original programming in 1996 with a show set in the golden age of radio, Remember WENN. Themed blocks of movies such as Fear Friday and American Pop showed movies complete with trailers and in-theater ads just as they would have been seen during their theatrical release.
By the turn of the century, AMC had moved away from its ad-free format, selling advertising space before and eventually within movies. A planned spin-off, AMC’s Hollywood Classics, would have offered ad-free movies for a premium price, but the new channel never materialized. The station evolved, showing more recent movies and colorized versions of older films, but it wasn’t until 2007 that it arrived at its new identity as a source of original dramatic programming with the release of Mad Men. Since then, the station has focused more on its original series programming and behind-the-scenes documentaries. AMC has built a reputation for risk-taking dramas and innovative original shows. It is now owned by AMC Networks.
Top AMC Shows
Mad Men: Tight plots, outstanding acting and uncannily accurate period sets define this critically lauded series about 1960s advertising executives in Manhattan. The show is a perennial Emmy award contender and has been credited with leading a style revolution, bringing sleek early 1960s styles into stores and designers’ collections. It remains the centerpiece of the station’s new wave of programming.
Breaking Bad: The story of an apparently mild-mannered chemistry teacher’s transformation into a coldly egomaniacal drug-lord, Breaking Bad is a series that few other networks would touch. The risk has paid off for AMC as many critics and viewers hail the tensely plotted and cinematic series as the best ever shown on television.
The Walking Dead: Taken from a graphic novel series about survivors of a zombie apocalypse, the show has become another blockbuster hit for AMC. Known for its outstanding acting as well as its gruesome special effects, the show has spawned its own live talk show, Talking Dead on the network.