The Washington Post

‘Game Change’ gets HBO its biggest original-movie opening in eight years

Julianne Moore in “Game Change” as Sarah Palin. (HBO)

To put the audience in perspective, that’s slightly fewer people than sat down the next afternoon at 2 to watch a rerun episode of History’s “Pawn Stars” (2.129 million viewers).

Over the course of the weekend, multiple telecasts of “Game Change” — which chronicles the decision of Republican Sen. John McCain’s campaign to run the then little-known Alaskan governor as his presidentil running mate — averaged a cumulative 3.6 million viewers. That’s slightly more than half the number of people who watched an original episode of History’s “Pawn Stars” last week on Monday night at 10.

HBO, at this point, would note that it’s a premium cable operation and, as such, does not have the same near-universal distribution of such basic cable networks as History, much less the universal distribution of the broadcast networks.

View Photo Gallery: With the debut of the HBO political movie “Game Change,’’ we offer side-by-side comparisons between the actors and their real-life counterparts. Vote for your favorite look-alikes.

HBO would also mention that, in keeping with its practice for rolling out new product, it will litter the content-watching firmament with additional opportunities to see “Game Change” over the coming days.

All true. And yet, HBO boasted in a news release issued Tuesday that its unveiling of “Game Change” doubled the premiere audience of 2008’s “Recount” — the previous HBO political flick from the same team of writer Danny Strong and director Jay Roach.

HBO has run more than 30 original movies since early 2004, when Nielsen finally stopped “rolling up” HBO ratings — i.e., counting all of HBO’s channels in its reporting for a program that ran on the mothership channel, even if those other channels were not running that program.

In the past eight years, the ratings record-holder for an HBO original flick remains “Something the Lord Made” which attracted 2.6 million viewers to its May 30, 2004, premiere.

Ed Harris, Julianne Moore in “Game Change” (Phillip V. Caruso )


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