AFI: The final countdown?

Perpetuated by previous successes, the American Film Institute will air in June a new AFI 100 special, this time dedicated to the action/suspense/thriller genres.

Titled AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Thrills, the special will count down the most significant American action films in Hollywood history. It will be similar to previous AFI events, which in the past have counted down the top 100 films, top 100 stars and top 100 comedic movies of all time. Actor Harrison Ford, known best for his turns in such action flicks as the Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies, will host the event, to air on CBS.

AFI members selected late last year 400 action/suspense/thriller films for consideration, sending voting ballots to 1,800 entertainment-industry professionals, including actors, directors and producers. On the ballots were such films as The Matrix, Psycho, Body Heat and The Shining, as well as a whopping 11 films starring Ford. Results of the voting will be revealed on the three-hour special.

“AFI has compiled [the ballots] with the goal of being as inclusive as possible,” AFI Public Relations specialist Sarah Gumina said.

Each film considered eligible had to contain “two major heart-pounding moments,” she said, and that a blank space was provided on each ballot for jurors to record an entry that was not pre-selected by AFI officials.

Though this countdown may seem like overkill–this is the fourth AFI 100 countdown–Gumina points out that, ultimately, solid viewership is what keeps the momentum going.

“Each of the previous specials was viewed by more than 11 million people, winning their respective time periods,” she said.

Will there be additional AFI countdowns in the future? Gumina did not rule out the possibility.

“Future celebrations are yet to be determined,” she said.

CBS publicist Kate Fisher said that she is confident the specials have not overstayed their welcome: “I believe CBS plans to continue this tradition in years to come.”

Though the AFI’s success in primetime is well proven, why wait until June-after the crucial May sweeps-to air such an event? Scot Safon, senior vice president of marketing at TNT, fully understands CBS’s decision.

“Yes, [in the summer] broadcasters are premiering fewer new things and they are gearing up for busy fall seasons.” he said. “But … viewers will watch great stuff whenever it is on, and if you can offer up wonderful things over the summer–when the competition for press and viewer attention is less–all the better. Viewers will always gravitate to things they really can get excited about.”

AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Thrills airs 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST Tuesday, June 12, on CBS.