We all know John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and we've all seen the Zapruder Film. But what you might not know is that the film didn't air on U.S. network television until 1975, when a youthful Geraldo Rivera debuted the footage on ABC's Good Night America.
Here's a clip:
And here's a bit of background on what happened to the film, which Ethan Trex originally wrote last year:
The next month Time Inc., who'd bought the rights from Abraham Zapruder in 1963 to publish in LIFE, sold the copyright and the original film back to the Zapruder family for $1. (Zapruder had died of stomach cancer in 1970.) Zapruder’s family really capitalized on the film after reacquiring the copyright. His son rented the film out for one-time viewings, and although estimates of the exact fee vary, Oliver Stone allegedly paid at least $40,000 to use the footage in his film JFK.
But a 1997 decision by the Assassination Records Review Board took the original copy out of the Zapruder family’s hands. As an important artifact of the assassination, the film itself became a permanent part of the National Archives’ Kennedy Collection. (According to a New York Times story that ran when the film changed hands, it had become so fragile after years of viewings and copying that the original could no longer be projected for fear of damaging it.) The National Archives had already had physical possession of the film for nearly 20 years; the family had given it to the Archives in 1978 for safekeeping.
The Justice Department actually had the task of acquiring the film and compensating the Zapruder family for its loss, and that’s where things got interesting. The government offered $1 million. The Zapruder family countered that since it was a one-of-a-kind relic, it should be valued more like a Van Gogh painting. Their counteroffer: $30 million. After a couple of years of haggling, a federal arbitration panel awarded the Zapruders a $16 million payment for the film in 1999.
That fee only paid for the physical copy of the film, though. The Zapruder family maintained ownership of the copyright. Not for long, though. On December 30, 1999, the family donated the copyright, along with its collection of films and photographs, to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.