CBS Sets Movie Night to Shore Up Primetime Slate

CBS is reaching back to its past — and into the catalog of one of its corporate siblings — to launch a movie night.

The network will air five beloved theatrical films on Sunday nights in May, all of which come from Paramount Pictures, which like the broadcast net is part of the recently merged ViacomCBS. The movies, which kick off with Raiders of the Lost Ark on May 3, will also help CBS fill out its schedule as its Sunday dramas — God Friended Me, NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: New Orleans — shut down a few episodes short of finishing their seasons amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"It's a five-week programming event with epic films, iconic stars and brilliant stories that viewers love...and love to watch together," Noriko Kelley, executive vp program planning and scheduling at CBS, said Tuesday in a statement.

Raiders of the Lost Ark will be followed by Forrest Gump on May 10, the first Mission: Impossible film on May 17, Titanic on May 24 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on May 31. All will run from 8-11 p.m. ET/PT, with the exception of Titanic, which will begin at 7 p.m.

Broadcast networks are looking for ways to fill their primetime lineups as their inventory of finished episodes begins to run dry into the spring. CBS and others are looking to other parts of their larger corporate portfolios to help patch potential holes, whether it be with movies or series from related cable channels. Foreign acquisitions and specials in the vein of CBS' Garth and Trisha Live or the multi-network telethon spearheaded by NBC are also possibilities. 

Movie nights were long a staple of broadcast schedules, but were gradually eliminated in the 1990s and 2000s as premium cable became the primary outlet for TV premieres of theatrical films. The last time a broadcaster had a regularly scheduled movie night was in the 2007-08 season, when ABC aired films in the low-traffic environment of Saturday night.