Showcase Productions, Inc, now a sub-subsidiary of Films Around The World, Inc., was the original “packaging” and production entity formed by the entertainment-attorney brothers Saul and Henry Jaffe. The programs were designed to increase demand for RCA’s color TV system when it was selected over CBS’ system by the FCC. The programs were by far the most expsnsive productions of the day, with budgets ranging up to $1MM, an unbelievable sum in 1956. The programs were broadcast in compatible color but were preserved for archival purposes on black and white kinescopes – in substance, a 16mm movie of a studio monitor — because the ASA of Technicolor film was 3, and lighting bright enough to expose the film would wash out the color TV screen image. Almost all were (a) prime time, (b) long-format, ( c) live, (d) dramatic anthology, with major stars, directors, and writers. Together they comprised a major share of NBC’s lineup between 1954 and 1957. Because the live programs were thought to have little or no future value, no thought was given to copyright ownership of the programs themselves. Litigation with NBC to establish ownership of the programs was settled with NBC’s recognition that Showcase was the sole owner of 160 of the programs, and owned 650 more jointly with NBC and exclusively distributed by Showcase.
Since the settlement, a number of challenges for this genre of programming, have been met:
– Showcase can digitally master and restore the kinescopes, so that they are close to B&W film quality; as a practical matter, devotees of this genre of programming are remarkable forgivable for technical limitations, and not a single one of the tens of thousands of DVDs of a limited number of programs, has been returned for technical reasons
–Except for clip licensing and a few video joint ventures, all rights to most of the programs have been retained with Showcase. The Joint Venture videos are available for DVD purchase in the section following the “Golden Age” pages on this website. All necessary talent clearances were obtained for the video releases, and despite the sale of more than 100,000 individual DVDs, there has not been a single rights challenge, or a return for technical deficiencies.
–U.S. copyright law has been amended to provide that these programs are all “good copyright” for 120 years from the date of their initial live broadcast, without any registration requirement. Showcase has registered several for copyright after they were transferred to video and “published” with the required copyright notices.
–The original talent agreements were generally for a single live network broadcast, so new licenses must be obtained for other media. The releases can be obtained either directly from the talent, or through separate agreements with AFTRA for “supplemental markets.”
–As part of the NBC settlement, Showcase’s ownership of all of the physical
materials for the wholly-owned programs, and co-ownership and access rights to the co-owned programs, was confirmed by NBC; Showcase is recognized as having access to the materials for digital mastering. To date, all major archives holding kinescope materials for the programs have recognized Showcase’s ownership and access rights, and on request have have furnished digital masters from materials on deposit in their respective archives. Showcase has possession of many of the original kinescope materials for most of the major programs.
–Showcase has obtained copies of the NBC Program Cards for all but a handful of the programs; they generally have full particulars about participants in the productions (casts, writers, composers, directors, etc.) as well as synopses; these, plus the credits on the kinescopes, form the basis for the Showcase rights clearances and complete cataloging.
– The 810 programs ALL have major casts, writers, composers, and writers; all but a handful would be considered as “locomotives” in lesser libraries. There is such an abundance of talent that, as just a few examples, we have enough programs for packages directed by Arthur Penn, Sidney
Lumet, Robert Mulligan, and Paul Bogart.
– We have located kinescope materials for most of the wholly-owned programs, and for about half of the co-owned programs. A fully-funded effort will, in our opinion, enable us to locate and gain access to materials for at least 80% of the total.
A complete catalog would run to more than 1,000 pages; to get a dramatic sense of how outstanding the actors, directors, writers, and directors are, the following pages are the catalog covers of just two series, the famed Producers’ Showcase and Alcoa/Goodyear series. Following those covers, there is an extensive page covering all 810 of the NBC programs, followed by some representative video clips; the last page in this group contains links for the purchase of the joint venture DVDs which have been commercially released. All of these releases are through joint ventures with Video Artists International. However, we plan to release these classic programs on our own “silver and blue” Mr. FAT-W Video label, through Amazon.com and other distributors; the initial release was MAYERLING, the “long lost” television debut of Audrey Hepburn and Mel Ferrer on our Producers’ Showcase dramatic anthology television series. This was followed by THE AMERICAN, the 1960 live broadcast starring Lee Marvin as Lee Hamilton Hayes. In 2015, we expect to add many more.
The process of digitally mastering and restoring programs preserved on kinescope, is a combination of science and art. The quality of the initial transfer depends on the quality of the source material; the kinescope negative is a better source than prints made from it. The transfer also reflects the technical capability of the transfer device and the skill of the operator in setting up the initial parameters. The kinescopes themselves varied widely in technical quality; the higher the quality of the initial transfer, the higher the number of damaged frames or artifacts that become visibly and which must be edited out by hand. Finally, there have been continuous improvements in programs which can upgrade the initial transfer — what can be done in 2015, is noticeably better than that which could be done in 2001. In 2015, we will be experimenting with colorization of one of our B&W kinescopes, utilizing new technology which if successful, will dramatically reduce the cost of reproducing them to color. What doesn’t change, is the artistic quality of these spectacular programs — the writing, direction, and acting, are all so superior that they stand the test of time magnificently.
It should be noted that in addition to the 810 programs that were specifically covered by the NBC settlement agreement, there are an additional 480 programs which we believe were packaged by Showcase. This is based on several factors, such as their running in the same time slot which had been assigned to Showcase for other series, personal notes by Saul Jaffe mentioning the acquisition of rights to them, repeats of programs which had run in one live series, in another NBC series, and so on. They were not included in the original settlement because at the time of the litigation, we had not completed going through the tens of thousands of pages of documents — indeed, there remain several boxes of original documents that we have just not gotten to yet.