Young Euros crave old H’wood

LONDON — I never imagined that Mick Jagger, Kate Moss and I would all be doing the same thing in the wee hours here in London, but by their own published admissions we all share the same nocturnal addiction: classic movies.

We’re not alone. Millions of European couch potatoes — including a booming younger demographic — are making it hip to watch Turner Classic Movies, which launched in Europe in 1999.

“TCM’s profile is getting younger all the time,” Euro VP and channel manager Alan Musa told me in the firm’s London headquarters, and the stats back him up.

According to the latest survey, a third of TCM’s viewers fall in the 25-44 age category, which means Moss isn’t alone and old rockers like Jagger (and somewhat younger editors like me) aren’t the only ones drawn to the lure of the film vaults.

And it’s not just English-speaking U.K. that is embracing Hollywood’s best. Europeans may deplore the state of American politics, but they clearly love the American movie heritage, though their particular passions differ dramatically from territory to territory.

I don’t know what Mick and Kate are watching, but across the continent, it’s a colorful story:

For instance: n The No. 1 TCM movie in Poland last quarter was Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven.” That seems fairly predictable, as it’s recent, a genuine classic, with big box office success and the best picture Oscar to sustain interest. But No. 2 is the late action master Don Siegel’s 1977 pic, “Telefon,” a virtually unknown Cold War thriller with Charles Bronson. Not even Kate Moss is that hip.

  • Of all Euro countries’ fave choices, the top films in the U.K. were the most conventional, with the recent “Crime Wave” series driving big numbers for the “Lethal Weapon” series and “The Fugitive.” But in Spain, the top 10 TCM films were a wild mix of little-seen genre titles like John Mackenzie’s “Fourth Protocol” and John Avildsen’s 25-year-old thriller, “The Formula,” along with the Clark Gable and Ava Gardner “Mogambo” and Anthony Mann’s brilliant psychological Western “The Naked Spur.”

  • And then there’s France. You can always count on the Gauls to be the savviest film buffs on the planet, and their TCM viewing habits are further confirmation. Their TCM faves includes a wonderfully diverse list of top titles including the classic “Show Boat,” early ’70s blaxploitation heist gem “Cool Breeze” and, there at No. 2, one of my favorite unsung Westerns: Henry Hathaway’s “Nevada Smith.”

As for the smart business folks who were wondering about the real value of Sony’s recent acquisition of the MGM library, the European consumption of vintage Hollywood titles is a reminder that the global shelf life of films is often far beyond what even the filmmakers might imagine.

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