Carlton buys movie classics for digital

Cathy Newman

Subscribers to digital terrestrial television will be able to watch classic films by Marlene Dietrich, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd after Carlton Communications purchased the rights to a film library containing 600 early cinema classics.

The television company has beefed up its film library ahead of next year's launch of 15 digital terrestrial channels, by acquiring the Rohauer Film Collection. Carlton and Granada Group jointly own British Digital Broadcasting (BDB), which was awarded the licence to run digital terrestrial at the end of June.

The Rohauer library gives Carlton access to vintage films such as The Thief of Baghdad, The Phantom of the Opera and The Blue Angel, starring Marlene Dietrich.

Carlton's programme distribution company, CTE, can now lay claim to being the second biggest exporter of TV programmes and films, behind the BBC.

Michael Green, chairman of Carlton, said digital television was one of the new opportunities for screening classic films. Carlton Films is one of the 15 channels on offer from BDB.

A spokesman for Carlton said yesterday: "As the number of channels grows worldwide, the demand increases. There will always be demand for the vintage classics of cinema, and Carlton is now the market leader in British vintage films."

Carlton indicated that, because of the age of most of the films, the rights had been secured for only a few million dollars.

The deal comes four months after Carlton paid pounds 65m for Rank Film Distributors, Britain's largest independent film library, containing 750 films, including the Carry On movies and modern blockbusters.

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