In the age of the Coronavirus, what’s old is new again.
At least when it comes to our entertainment options.
With all of Hollywood on pause along with the rest of us, original content is at a minimum. As a result, content providers are having to dig deep into their archives.
One thing that always plays (especially in times of crisis): nostalgia.
That’s exactly what CBS is hoping for as they bring back the CBS Sunday Night Movie. A staple of network TV from decades past — when a mix of original made-for-tv films and broadcast premieres of big blockbusters was actually appointment television — CBS is resurrecting that brand for the whole month of May.
And they’re using hits from corporate-cousin Paramount to do it.
It all started on May 3rd with a re-broadcast of Raiders of the Lost Ark, which ended up being the 3rd-most watched program that night in all of television. Subsequent re-broadcast of classic films have reaped similar ratings, making the brand revival a success.
This week: CBS Sunday Night Movies concludes with Grease, complete with sing-a-long lyrics. The top-grossing film of 1978, Grease took in $130 million, a haul that would equal $511 million today. That massive amount would be unthinkable now for even the most popular of musicals.
(Also unthinkable: a crass comedy like Animal House being as successful now as then. It was #2 behind Grease for that year, with a $102 million gross that would equal $401 million today, something that even the most popular of comedies couldn’t dream of reaching now.)
For as popular as it was, Grease marked the end of an era for musicals. Despite feeble attempts (including a Grease 2), the genre lay dormant until Disney revived it in the 1990s through animation. But it wasn’t until 2001’s smash hit Moulin Rouge! that the live-action musical finally returned to the big screen as a genre with mass market appeal.
Here are two videos from the Siskel & Ebert archives about Grease. The first comes from their “Best of 1978” episode, and the second from 1998 when Siskel was praising the theatrical re-release of a new remastered print of Grease for its 20th Anniversary.
Here is the full schedule for the CBS Sunday Night Movies throughout the month of May:
Raiders of the Lost Ark at 8/7c
Forrest Gump at 8/7c
Mission: Impossible at 8/7c
May 24 (this week)
Titanic at 7/6c
May 31 (this Sunday)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade at 8/7c
June 7 (the revival finale)
Grease Sing-A-Long at 8/7c
Sure, most people probably own these titles or can stream them at any time. Plus, they all seem to pop up on basic cable in regular rotation.
Still, I hope this proves successful for CBS, if for no other reason than it is a reminder of a time when TV really brought us all together. That’s a good message to remember right now, and embrace.
I doubt I’ll watch every minute of every broadcast, but I’ll be tuning in each week at least a little bit. It’ll be fun. And who knows…I mean, CBS has scheduled a lineup of movies that once you start watching them, it’s hard to stop.
And given the success that this run has enjoyed, it’s likely that we haven’t seen the last of the CBS Sunday Night Movies.