IT is the family-run television channel that is bringing many an old film and series back to the screen – and whose viewers are said to include the Queen.

Talking Pictures TV is also one of the few channels that will pick up the phone to the public, answering questions about the schedules and even helping callers use their Sky remotes.

But although it has a loyal following now, the channel’s founders had a battle to get it off the ground in 2015.

Talking Pictures is coming to Christchurch’s Regent Centre on the weekend of July 16-17 for a weekend of screenings and appearances. Stars including Sarah Miles, Martin Clunes, Melvyn Hayes and Derren Nesbitt are due to speak to hosts Mike Read and Caroline Munro.

Visiting the town ahead of the event, managing director Sarah Cronin-Stanley had been a labour of love for her father, Noel Cronin.

“One of the things when we launched the channel was to rescue these films from obscurity because most of them were sitting in archives or, worse, lost completely. This was a chance to bring household names to a new audience and back to an audience that knew them,” she said.

The channel’s schedules are dominated by movies more than half a century old, with a high proportion of British films, many of which will have originally played as the bottom half of a double bill.

Its most popular TV series, meanwhile, include Rumpole of the Bailey, Secret Army, The Saints, Maigret and Van der Valk.

Mr Cronin is a former film editor who worked for the Central Office of Information. He bought the rights to many vintage films, then licensed them to traditional TV channels, before starting the DVD label Renown Pictures.

“My dad was a collector and bought lots of films in the 1950s and 60s. He was very clever because he knew that people would want to watch these films,” said Mrs Cronin-Stanley.

Starting a whole channel devoted to vintage entertainment was not easy, though. “None of the banks would lend us any money,” she said.

Mr Cronin even encountered scepticism from the film studios whose content he needed to add to the titles he already owned.

“Noel was going to them saying ‘We’d like to license X’ and they were saying ‘Are you serious?’," said the managing director. 

“Two and a half years later, the studios were coming back to him saying ‘Would you still like that one?’”

Getting onto people's screens was not easy, either. "You have to negotiate deals with every single platform going and convince them as to why they want you – and pay them lots of money for the privilege," she added. 

Nonetheless, the channel took off, building its audience up to five million unique viewers a week and spawning an online catch-up service, Talking Pictures TV Encore.

Its viewers are said to include the Queen, who was poorly over Christmas 2016 and reportedly had a servant switch on the channel for a season of Laurel and Hardy films.

Mr Cronin plans the content personally, deciding what suits the time slot. “He schedules all the films and I think that’s one of the biggest things that differentiates us from other channels,” said Mrs Stanley-Cronin.

The channel has a “very low repeating pattern”, she said. “Our films only play twice in four months.”

But Talking Pictures' success has woken up other channels to the value of older material, she said. The channel does not own exclusive rights to some of its content – and it has seen some of its films cropping up on other people’s schedules between its own screenings.

Audience figures spiked dramatically during the pandemic, at the same time as advertising revenue dropped. But the adverts have been returning as the Covid situation eases.

“Cruises are back, shows are back – (theatrical producer) Bill Kenwright is a great supporter of ours – holidays are back, day trips are back,” says Mrs Stanley-Cronin.

There are plenty of younger people among the audience – not least for the horror and science fiction content that Caroline Munro introduces in the channel’s Friday night Cellar Club strand. But inevitably, much of the audience is older. 

“I love it when people say ‘That’s where we first met, we went on a date to see that film’,” said Mrs Cronin-Stanley.

“We get a lot of letters from dementia carers, saying ‘We can’t tell you what it means for them to sit there and be transported back to a time when they were young’.”

• A Weekend By the Sea with Talking Pictures takes place on Saturday, July 16 and Sunday, July 17, 10.30am-7pm, at the Regent Centre, with tickets at £30 for a day and £50 for the weekend. Details are at

The channel is on Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media.