“Schindler’s List” never quite fit into the standard boxes Hollywood builds for its movies. It was black and white. It was serious. It explicitly portrayed a topic - the Holocaust - that had been all but taboo in American films.
On Sunday, Steven Spielberg attempts to squeeze a slightly trimmed version of “Schindler’s List” into a new kind of box - network television. It promises to be a departure from standard network fare.
The 1994 Academy Award winner appears on NBC from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., uninterrupted by commercials. The sole sponsor is the Ford Motor Company, which will offer a total of two minutes of messages at the beginning and end, plus an introduction by Ford executive Ross Roberts.
The airing of the film that won seven Academy Awards, including best picture and director, carries a rating of TV-M (mature audiences only), because of the horrible acts of the German concentration camp commandant and guards, as well as the nudity of some women victims. Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy assured that the edits will be slight.
“The film is still being worked on, and the trims will be minor, perhaps a second here and there,” he said. “Television viewers will see essentially what was shown in theaters.
“Nudity will be one of the areas to be trimmed. But there will be nudity. The film will be very graphic, very explicit. Steven has always felt that is part of its effectiveness.”
“Schindler’s List” surprised the film trade by its widespread acceptance: It grossed $93 million in the United States and Canada. The figure might have reached the magic $100 million mark except that it was shown free to 2 million high school students.
The total gross worldwide reaches over $300 million; no specifics, because Spielberg doesn’t like to put a dollar figure on the film. The television contract resulted from his desire to have “Schindler’s List” seen by as many people as possible, Levy said.
“Arrangements are being made for the film to be shown in other major countries,” the spokesman added. “It will appear in the same format as on NBC. Since most of the countries have state-owned channels, that should be easy to manage. There are no plans to show it theatrically.”
NBC not being state-owned, there was the delicate matter of how to sponsor Sunday’s showing. The standard run of TV commercials would clash preposterously - and tastelessly - with black-and-white scenes of concentration camps.
“It worked out very well,” said John Agoglia, president of NBC Enterprises. “We were even more fortunate than we anticipated, in having a sponsor like Ford taking a higher sponsorship and foregoing commercial interruption.”
He added that there will be rest breaks during the film. Instead of commercials, the audience will see a printed intermission-type message on the screen, accompanied by theme music.
As to the nudity and other matters that brought the TV-M rating, Agoglia observed: “You have to judge the content as it relates to the film as a whole. I can’t talk about what editing might be done; that’s entirely up to Steven. I can tell you it won’t be anything substantial.”
Under the contract, NBC has the right for further screenings of “Schindler’s List,” the true story of how Oskar Schindler, a factory operator and Nazi party member, helped save the lives of 1,100 Jews during the Holocaust. Agoglia said no timetable for repeat screenings has been set.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.