HBO Behind the Scenes: The Making of the 1983 Feature Presentation

For many Children of the 80s, the HBO Loop was the personal babysitter for many of us Latchkey kids. Unlike Netflix, we didn’t have a say over the programming and wound up watching many films that would become nostalgic classics over and over again. One of the most memorable clips from that time is not a movie, but HBO’s Feature Presentation opening. Starting in 1983, the grand orchestral music would greet us as the camera panned over a model town and into the night sky. A chrome HBO would appear in a flash until the camera zoomed into the “O” which spun into streaks of colors. Watch the 10 minutes HBO Behind the Scenes segment see how they made one of the most iconic intros from our childhood.

HBO’s Early History Quickie Recap

In 1965, Charles Dolan won a franchise to build a cable television system in the Lower Manhattan section of New York City. It lost money during its first six years of operation due to the expense of running cable underground and into buildings throughout Manhattan. The endeavor produced limited subscribers which numbered around 400 in 1971.

In 1971, Dolan came up with a concept for a cable-originated television service, called The Green Channel. That name wasn’t great, and in short time, they changed their name to Home Box Office. They expected to change again it at a later date, but they never did. On November 8, 1972, Home Box Office launched at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time. They broadcast an NHL hockey game between the New York Rangers and the Vancouver Canucks from Madison Square Garden to 325 Teleservice subscribers in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The first film they aired, 1971’s Sometimes a Great Notion starring Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, and Lee Remick, was broadcast immediately after the game.

In September 1973, HBO only had 8,000 subscribers across 14 cable systems, but they were only located in the state of Pennsylvania. By April 1975, the service added around 100,000 subscribers in Pennsylvania and New York state. The company finally returned their first meager profit this year.

During HBO’s first 9 years it existed, it was only distributed for nine hours each day—from 3:00 p.m. to 12:00 am Eastern Time. They first switched to a 24-hour schedule on weekends only on September 4, 1981. However, once rivals Showtime and The Movie Channel switched to a 24-hours seven days a week format, HBO had no choice if they wanted to compete. On December 28, 1981, they too switched to a 24-hour schedule, and begun expanding to the HBO we know today.

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