The Infomercial Grindhouse: Access Television Network

From the late 50s to the 1980s, the downtowns of America were dotted with “grindhouses.” A grindhouse was a storefront movie theater, usually located in an urban downtown neighborhood. 42nd Street in New York was famous for its grindhouses. These theaters had been regular or even “luxury” movie houses when they were built in the 30s or 40s but over the years they, and their neighborhoods, became run down. So to attract patrons they started showing “exploitation” films. Exploitation films were movies put out by independent producers that “exploited” lurid cravings for gore, sex, and all manner of things bizarre. One interesting thing about grindhouses was that a person could buy a ticket and stay inside for as long as they wanted—something their clientele, which consisted of many hustlers plying their trade or junkies looking for a place to crash, appreciated. Usually there were no set start times for the films; the movies would be shown one after the other. Some grindhouses would even stop the projector right in the middle of a movie at closing time and then start it up again at that same spot in the morning.

On my cable system there is a channel called the Access Television Network (ATN) which is a veritable grindhouse for infomercials. ATN doesn’t show infomercials in between regular programming: Infomercials are the programming. Although there have been quite a few small UHF stations where infomercials dominated the broadcast day, they at least would show short commercials or public service announcements in between, so that each infomercial would start on the hour or half-hour. Because ATN shows these 28 minutes programs continually, you never know at what time an infomercial is going to start or end. And ATN keeps up its schedule of one infomercial after another going 24/7 (something even few of the old grindhouses did).


(By the way, if you are interesting in learning more about the old grindhouse movie theaters, the book Sleazoid Express is an excellent resource, chronicling the heyday of the 42nd Street grindhouses. And check out some great pictures of the 42nd Street grindhouses.)


  • 3 Responses to “The Infomercial Grindhouse: Access Television Network”

  • Sleazoid Express is an excellent book, I leave it by my toilet and reading throne. It prompted me to find the movies on video, and I’ve seen a great deal of them, thanks to that book and Cinema Sewer.

    Comment by Visaman on January 13, 2007 at 9:28 pm

  • Where can one find a general listing of infomercial broadcast times? My dish and prior cable provider just lists these as Paid Programming. I am looking for what infos are on when and where.

    Comment by Jon on August 17, 2007 at 11:34 pm

  • I wish I knew of somewhere that listed when specific infomercials would be aired. It would save me a lot of time looking for good ones.

    Comment by Paul Lucas on August 18, 2007 at 10:26 am