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Curtains Fall on Saturday Night at the Movies

Reduced provincial funding brings TVO's landmark movie series to an end, along with two other shows and up to 40 jobs.

When the phrase “plan that looks to future” sits atop a press release, it’s often code for cutbacks or reallocation of resources. So it is with a missive released today by TVO, which buries the axe amid plans to direct reduced provincial funding into digital children’s and current affairs programming. Not until paragraph six does the bombshell hit: Saturday Night at the Movies (SNAM), currently the longest running movie program on television, will soon load its final reel.

According to TVO CEO Lisa de Wilde, “When Saturday Night at the Movies began almost 40 years ago, it broke new ground but now entire TV networks and web services are dedicated to movies.” While this may be true, those other services lack the extensive archive of interviews TVO has built up since SNAM debuted in March 1974. Those other services offer studio-produced puff pieces and PR junket quality featurettes on movies, but they don’t reach into the mechanics of filmmaking as SNAM’s conversations do. Since the late 1990s, the series has been included in York University’s film curriculum.

Beyond fulfilling TVO’s mandate as an educational broadcaster SNAM, especially during Elwy Yost’s quarter-century run as host, turned a generation of viewers into film connoisseurs. As Torontoist’s Christopher Bird noted in his obituary for Yost last year, “He was the friendliest man on television who wasn’t Mister Rogers, because he had the best job ever: he got paid to talk about movies, and movies deserved better than cynicism and snark to someone like Elwy Yost.” His manner and the show’s excellent programming choices helped the series become the network’s highest-rated series.

To a child growing up in a pre-cable household during the 1980s, SNAM was a gateway to classic movies that weren’t regularly shown on television. Under Yost’s warm guidance, it was a place to discover films that they only knew through stills in picture books, to understand who Groucho Marx was beyond the inspiration for gag glasses, spot Alfred Hitchcock’s cameos, and crack the mystery of “Rosebud.”

Besides SNAM, TVO also announced that it is ending Allan Gregg in Conversation after 18 years. While Big Ideas is being cancelled as an ongoing series, the network indicates the lectures will reappear as an occasional segment of The Agenda with Steve Paikin. The total cuts announced today will save TVO $2 million and axe up to 40 jobs. But amid the carefully vetted talk about fiscal realities and leveraging efficiencies, a little magic has been lost.

According to the current broadcast schedule, the last SNAM double feature will be May 11’s “The Untraditional Family” bill of La Cage Aux Folles and All About My Mother.


  • tommy

    Jeez, so what TVO even broadcast anymore other than The Agenda or Children’s programming?

  • OgtheDim

    Back about 10 years ago, they went to wall to wall children’s programming from 6 am until 7. It was painful.

    It still is painful.

  • Anonymous

    SNAM lost it’s appeal years ago, and the movie choices have degraded outright to movies that can be found just about everywhere else. It’s no longer a real loss. I don’t see how cancelling Big Ideas saves them much money though. How expensive can it be to point a camera or two at an often snore inducing University prof or other lecturer? And did anyone ever watch Gregg’s show? 18 years? I hadn’t heard of it before maybe two or three years ago. Oh well, as long as I still get to watch politicians bickering like children at 3AM, TVO will still serve it’s minimal and very questionable purpose.

    • PlantinMoretus

      I watch(ed) Gregg’s show often, and most weeks I will check to see who the guest is. I’ve been introduced to some very good writers through that show. I’m sorry to see it go.

  • Anonymous

    But which British series will they replace it with? Medieval Outhouse Investigators, or maybe Live Like A 16th Century Welshman, I hope!

    • PlantinMoretus

      I love that sh1t.

  • CaligulaJones

    That damn Mike Harris. Oh, wait…

  • Roxierpup

    Rubbish.SNM was genuinely good programming. Sadly, the ‘talking heads electronic babble shots’ of mainstream TV will prevail. Tossers …

  • D

    This show did go down hill a bit. I wish they would have keep up with the older movies. There are not many TV stations show these movies any more. Sad to see it go.