Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Sorry, Shawshank, but Road House and Jumanji were the most-played movies on basic cable this year

Illustration for article titled Sorry, iShawshank/i, but iRoad House /iandi Jumanji /iwere the most-played movies on basic cable this year
Screenshot: Roadhouse, Jumanji

“R.I.P. Cable TV” reads the splashy headline of an in-depth new Variety story detailing the slow collapse of broadcast TV in the streaming age. Though some sources defend the medium’s staying power—dads never miss a Yellowstone—there’s ample evidence, such as the fact that MTV has resigned itself to just playing Ridiculousness on a loop, that cable is becoming a minor factor in the future of media. People rarely tune in to live TV these days; rather, they flip until they see something familiar that stops them, be it for 10 minutes or two hours.

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The easiest way to do that? Movies. Beloved ones that remind people of simpler times. “With movies, it’s like flypaper. You can get people to join you at any time through the movie and they tend to stay longer than they think they’re going to,” Chuck Saftler, president and COO of FX Networks, told Variety. “When you have a two-hour strip of flypaper where viewers just land and stick, it’s a great way to program a large chunk of time and to promote other shows. Because people are watching live and not DVR-ing, they’re actually seeing the promos.”

This isn’t a new tactic, of course, but it’s perhaps become a more vital one in age where Netflix is only a click away. So, as an accompaniment to the aforementioned piece, Variety also dug up the data on which old standards cable networks have been trotting out during the 2019-20 season. And while you’ll see plenty of familiar flicks on there, you might also find some surprises. These days, for example, you’re less likely to stumble upon The Shawshank Redemption, long considered the crown jewel of basic cable, than you are 2004's Walking Tall remake or 50 First Dates.

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The most-replayed movies on basic cable, however, were Road House, because some things never change, and 1995's Jumanji, which likely saw a boost following the success of Sony’s recent reboots. The former has played 83 times across 10 different networks since last September, while the latter has played 77 times across 11 networks.

Other films you’re likely to find at any given time:

  • Gladiator, which played 74 times across five networks
  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which played 74 times across nine networks
  • Ghostbusters, which played 69 times across nine networks
  • A Few Good Men, which played 66 times across five networks
  • Top Gun, which played 66 times across five networks
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But where, you ask, are Goodfellas and Jurassic Park? They’re there, friend, just airing fewer times on fewer networks than Coyote Ugly. It also aired only a few times more than Deep Impact, which people seem to love watching despite it being so goddamned depressing.

Another neat takeaway: IFC tends to run its movies into the ground, having shown 2002's We Were Soldiers 38 times and Tropic Thunder a whopping 49 times—the most single-network showings of any film on the list—in the past year. Walking Tall and Speed, meanwhile, played on 12 networks apiece, making them the most widespread movies on the list, if not the most played. Not far behind were Ocean’s Eleven and Grease, whose ongoing ubiquity bodes well for its upcoming prequel.

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Have a look at the full tally over at Variety and let us know in the comments what movies are your own personal flypaper.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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