HLN, the cable network once known as CNN Headline News, will open its schedule to the occasional movie, the latest sign that owner Time Warner is seeking ways to bolster an outlet whose identity has been in flux.
The network, once known for its news updates and coverage of lurid trials, has been in a makeover phase of sorts for the last year or so, and the launch of “News and a Movie” on Thursday, February 12, is meant to emphasize some of HLN’s new themes — namely, its efforts to curate trends taking place on social media as well as present programming that links viewers to Twitter, Facebook and the rest.
“There was a lot of brainstorming” over how to get movies on the network, said Keith Brown, HLN senior VP of programming, in an interview. ” We have to be more than just getting a movie on for the sake of putting a movie on.”
HLN will take a 122-minute film classic, 1989’s “Glory,” and run it over the course of three hours next Thursday, adding segments featuring a panel of celebrities who will discuss aspects of the movie, its history and its relation to current events. Brown said the discussion around “Glory” would tie in to Black History Month, which is celebrated in February, and look not only at how actor Denzel Washington won an Oscar for his performance in the film, but at the fact that no actors from a minority background were included in the current set of Oscar actor nominations.
Brown expects panelists and hosts to dig deeper into the time in which the movies were released, perhaps contemplating what social-media outlets might have made of the films if such operations like Facebook and Twitter were around at the time. Might “Glory” have sparked chatter with its use of racial epithets? What might audiences have said about the choice of a white director to helm the movie?
The programming decision is an unorthodox one. Brown said he believes HLN has never aired movies in its past.
The “News and a Movie” premiere is hosted by actress Holly Robinson Peete and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin, with feature segments by Rocsi Diaz, from HLN’s “Daily Share.” The “Glory” panelists are comedian Chuck Nice, YouTube star GloZell Green, Pulitzer Prize winner Nick Chiles, Atlanta magazine columnist Rich Eldredge, and Cary Elwes, who played the character of Major Cabot Forbes in “Glory.” Broadcasts of “News and a Movie” will be accompanied by onscreen trivia and live viewer input across social-media platforms, the network said.
HLN is working with studios and with sister networks that are part of Time Warner to procure movies, Brown said.
The next edition of “News and a Movie” is slated for March and will focus on the topic of innovation with the 1985 comedy “Real Genius.”