Z Channel

The Z Channel was one of the first pay television stations in the United States. Launched in 1974 from Los Angeles, California, this station was known for its devotion to the art of cinema due to the eclectic choice of films[1] by the programming chief, Jerry Harvey. It also popularized the use of letterboxing on television, as well as showing 'director's cut' versions of films (which is a term popularized after Z Channel's showing of Heaven's Gate). Z Channel's devotion to cinema and choice of rare and important films had an important influence on such directors as Robert Altman, Quentin Tarantino, and Jim Jarmusch.

Z Channel
Closed29 June 1989
Owned byTheta Cable (1974–1981)
Group W (1981–1987)
Rock Associates (1987–1988)
American Spectacor (1988–1989)
Cablevision/NBC (1989)
CountryUnited States
LanguageAmerican English
Broadcast areaSouthern California
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California
Replaced bySportsChannel Los Angeles


Z Channel was launched in 1974 by Theta Cable (a division of TelePrompTer Corporation and Hughes Aircraft Co.) which was acquired by Group W (Westinghouse) in 1981. Operations were located in Santa Monica, California. Jerry Harvey was hired as program director in 1980. As program director, Harvey was given permission to program the network the way he saw fit. As such, the network featured a wide variety of films not typically shown on other pay television services at the time. [2] [3] [4] [5]

These included many B movies, silent films, foreign films, and original unedited versions of films. On Christmas Eve 1982, Harvey made the decision to show the original (previously unreleased in two years) version of Heaven's Gate, a movie that had been considered a disaster by all accounts. His decision was a success and the movie became the most watched feature ever shown on Z Channel. Other networks soon followed and aired Heaven's Gate.

By the mid-1980s, Z Channel had 90,000 subscribers. In 1987, Group W sold Z Channel to Seattle-based Rock Associates for $5 million.[6] Both increased competition and lack of interest by Group W leading up to the sale led to a decrease in subscribers. In January 1988, Rock Associates merged with American Spectacor.

In April 1988, there were two major (though unrelated) changes; the departure of Jerry Harvey due to his suicide and the addition of sports to the network. Deals were made to bring games from the Angels, Clippers and Dodgers to the network.[7] This increased the numbers of subscribers to 110,000. The sports deals were funded by selling advertising during the games. However, a lawsuit ensued with a court ruling that contracts with the movie studios stipulated that the service be commercial-free.

Out of options, the channel was sold to Cablevision and NBC on March 16, 1989, who were partners in the joint-venture SportsChannel. On June 29, 1989 Z Channel faded to black[8] and was replaced by SportsChannel Los Angeles.[9] The last film shown on Z Channel was the John Ford film My Darling Clementine.[10]

The channel was the subject of the 2004 documentary Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, which was directed by Alexandra Cassavetes, daughter of John Cassavetes. [11]

Live wrestling events

In the late 1980s, Z Channel broadcast a number of the World Wrestling Federation's live events from the Los Angeles Sports Arena, but nowhere near as many as Madison Square Garden (MSG Network), Boston Garden (New England Sports Network) or the Philadelphia Spectrum (PRISM).

Selected films that aired on Z Channel

See also


  1. ^ "Film-News and Notes." Daily News of Los Angeles October 3, 1986
  2. ^ Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - Feb/Mar/Apr, 1979 - Vol. 5, No. 9 - High Anxiety on cover-Amazon.com
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - Aug/Sept, 1979 - Vol. 6, No. 4 - Jaws on cover-Amazon.com
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ "Rainbow to Add Hockey Games : Z Channel Sold to Sports, News Programming Firm". latimes. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  7. ^ "Z Channel 1987". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  8. ^ "Z Channel Fading To Black Amid Film Industry Tributes." The Hollywood Reporter April 27, 1989
  9. ^ "Hollywood Freeway." Daily News of Los Angeles June 26, 1989
  10. ^ a b "The Death of Z Channel--What Now? : The History : Beset by troubles, quirky station will switch to all-sports". latimes. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  11. ^ Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession-IGN
  12. ^ Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - January/February, 1975 - Vol. 1, No. 7 - Blazing Saddles on cover-Amazon
  13. ^ Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - May/June, 1975 - Vol. 2, No. 1 - Freebie and the Bean on cover-Amazon.com
  14. ^ Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - Apr/May, 1975 - Vol. 1, No. 9 - American Graffiti on cover-Amazon.com
  15. ^ Z Magazine: The Entertainment Guide for Subscribers to the Z Channel and Theta Cable Television - Sept/Oct, 1978 - Vol. 5, No. 5 - MacArthur on cover
  16. ^ [3]
  17. ^ [4]
  18. ^ [5]
  19. ^ [6]
  20. ^ [7]
  21. ^ [8]
  22. ^ [9]
  23. ^ [10]
  24. ^ [11]
  25. ^ [12]
  26. ^ [13]
  27. ^ [14]
  28. ^ [15]
  29. ^ [16]
  30. ^ [17]
  31. ^ [18]
  32. ^ [19]
  33. ^ [20]
  34. ^ [21]
  35. ^ [22]
  36. ^ [23]
  37. ^ [24]
  38. ^ a b c d e f g h "Film Montage from "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession" (2004)". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  39. ^ [25]
  40. ^ a b c "Z Channel Magazine of the Air- April 24-30 1981". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  41. ^ "Z Channel break- December 1977". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  42. ^ "Z Channel break- January 1982". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  43. ^ "Z Channel movie bumper 1980". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  44. ^ "Z Channel Feature Presentation & MGM fanfare 1984". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  45. ^ "Z Channel Videodrome intro 1984". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  46. ^ a b c d "'Z Channel' on the Air-Washington Post". washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  47. ^ "Z Channel: Overlord". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  48. ^ "Z Channel: The Important Thing is to Love". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  49. ^ "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) - Trailer". YouTube. Retrieved 2018-07-19.
  50. ^ [26]
  51. ^ [27]
  52. ^ [28]
  53. ^ [29]
  54. ^ [30]
  55. ^ [31]

External links

Alexandra Cassavetes

Alexandra "Xan" Cassavetes (born September 21, 1965) is an American actress and director. She is the daughter of Greek-American actor-director John Cassavetes and actress Gena Rowlands. She is the granddaughter of actress Katherine Cassavetes. She is the sister of actor-director Nick Cassavetes and actor-screenwriter-director Zoe Cassavetes.

Cassavetes directed 2004 documentary, Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, which explores the historic influence of the cable television station Z Channel. The film won acclaim, and screened out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2012, Cassavetes wrote and directed her first dramatic feature, vampire tale Kiss of the Damned.

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Jerry Harvey (screenwriter)

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Z-channel (information theory)

A Z-channel is a communications channel used in coding theory and information theory to model the behaviour of some data storage systems.

Z Channel (disambiguation)

Z Channel is one of the first pay cable stations in the United States.

Z Channel may also refer to:

Z (TV channel), a French-language Canadian TV network sometimes called Z Channel (Fr. Canal Z)

Z-channel (information theory), a communications channel used in coding theory and information theory

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, a 2004 documentary about the pay cable station

Related television networks
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Premium television services in the United States
digital television
Cable television


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