Exploring the TCM Backlot

TCM Backlot

Right as the 2016 TCM Film Festival was about to kick off, TCM announced two major projects they have been working on. The first of which was FilmStruck, a new film streaming service that will include films from the Criterion Collection, Kino, and Milestone, which is expected to launch this fall. Secondly, there was the TCM Backlot, a new fan club for the network. I’m very excited for FilmStruck and I already look forward to writing a post about it once I’ve had a chance to check it out. However, TCM was kind enough to give those of us who had media credentials to the festival a chance to check out TCM Backlot.

By far, one of the coolest things about TCM Backlot is its archive of video content. I know a lot of TCM viewers are huge fans of the promo spots, introductions, and other video content produced by the channel, so being able to see some of these gems that haven’t aired on the channel in decades is a real delight. (Did you know TCM once had a contest where you could win Tony Curtis for a day?) Many videos available on there date from the very earliest days of the channel, including the very first TCM Remembers tribute.

Some of the things currently in the Backlot’s video archive are things that never actually aired on the channel, like introductions for movies that were Fathom event screenings; career tribute montages for people like Gina Lollobrigida, Elliott Gould, Max Von Sydow, Kirk Douglas, and Albert Maysles that were only shown at the TCM Film Fest; and unseen interview footage with stars like Jane Russell and Tony Curtis. New videos have been added pretty consistently so far, so this part of it is already shaping up to be a real treasure trove of footage.

TCM Backlot members also have a chance to influence upcoming TCM programming and other TCM-related things. With the first poll they had up, members could vote to determine two stars who would be featured during this year’s Summer Under the Stars lineup. (We had the chance to choose between Edward G. Robinson or James Cagney and Ava Gardner and Hedy Lamarr, with Robinson and Lamarr being the two winners.) A new poll is currently up for members to choose which picture of Gene Hackman they would like to see on the cover of the September Now Playing guide.

Joining the TCM Backlot also gives you the chance to enter exclusive contests, attend special events at other film-related events like the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, discounts at the TCM store, a digital copy of the Now Playing Guide, behind the scenes content, and more.

Whether or not the $87 annual membership fee is worthwhile, it all really comes down to what you want to get out of it. If you’re primarily interested in the video content, I can totally understand how you might think it would be a little expensive. But if you’re a fan who attends the TCM Cruise or the TCM Film Festival, becoming a Backlot member could be very worthwhile. If you go to the festival with either a Palace Pass or a Classic Pass, the two lowest level passes, your TCM Backlot membership would give you the chance to enjoy some nice extra perks and exclusive events during the festival without having to pay as much as you would for one of the higher level passes.

If you don’t attend either the festival or the cruise, but go to other film festivals around the country or live in the areas of Los Angeles, New York, or Atlanta, you might still be able to attend some of the events for members. It remains to be seen where a lot of these Backlot member exclusive events are going to be held, but I have a feeling a lot of them will be in those areas. However, I’d be thrilled if they organized events for fans who live in other areas of the country.


  1. I’m glad you wrote about this, Angela. I still haven’t had a chance to check out my membership, but your post has given me the incentive to get with the program!

  2. Living in the middle part of the country, my concern was whether it would be worth my while. The sad fact is that it would be very difficult for me to get to either coast (which is why I’ve never attended TCMFF). The video content sounds fascinating, but the $87 price tag would seem steep for that alone! I really wish they had different levels of membership where the higher the level the more benefits one get (Basic, Silver, and Gold, or something like that).

    1. I agree, different tiers of membership would be fantastic so that people could be able to have the level of benefits that makes the most sense for them. While most of the benefits can easily be enjoyed from anywhere in the country, the special events for members seem so great that I can understand how disappointing it would be to not be able to attend any of them.

      For me, between the video content and the festival perks, I think I can justify the membership fee, but it’s ultimately the festival perks that clinch the deal. And as a Midwesterner who, for a long time, couldn’t afford to go to the festival or an $87 membership fee, I completely and totally understand how expensive it seems when there’s no guarantee that you’d be able to attend any of the event-type things near home.

  3. I didn’t realize the video content was so amazing. I really need to check this out for myself again. The launch during festival time made it too difficult to give it a good look. Thanks for writing about this!

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