Adding a Discovery Channel simulcast into the mix pumped up viewership on The Challenger Disaster to nearly 2 million premiere viewers, and 5 million unique viewers during its debut weekend. On Science Channel, which co-produced the project with BBC, Challenger Disaster drew an average of 730,000 viewers in its Saturday premiere, making it the network’s most-watched program of 2013. The William Hurt-starrer is also the third-most-watched program in Science Channel history, tied with Firefly: Browncoats Unite. On Discovery Channel, the drama delivered 1.2 million total viewers in its premiere.
EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has decided to simulcast Science Channel’s first stab at scripted programming — the 90-minute The Challenger Disaster — when it premieres on November 16 at 9 PM, to ensure it gets the biggest possible audience and because the movie fits Discovery’s footprint. Discovery Channel this calendar year, is averaging 1.3 million viewers – 660,000 of them aged 18-49. Science Channel this year is averaging 304,000 viewers – 117,000 of them in the demo. When Science first announced the project in July, its GM Debbie Myers said it was the “biggest swing” in the network’s history. Produced in collaboration with the BBC and based on Dr. Richard Feynman’s memoir, What Do You Care What Other People Think?, the movie details Feynman’s participation in the Presidential Commission put together to investigate the Challenger explosion. William Hurt plays Feynman – the Caltech physicist/Nobel laureate who, in a televised hearing, demonstrated that the Challenger’s O-ring was not sufficiently pliable, submerging a piece of it in a glass of ice water, causing it to grow stiff and bend, and Feynman to note, “I believe that has some significance for our problem,” according to press reports. At the investigation’s conclusion, Feynman’s report, “Appendix F – Personal Observations on the Reliability of the Shuttle,” was presented to POTUS, independent of the commission’s report.
The Challenger explosion was one of those where-were-you-then moments in American history; millions of TV viewers watched in horror on January 1986 as the space vehicle burst apart, killing all seven astronauts on board, including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe, who’d been added to the crew because space travel was considered that safe; she was going to provide terrific PR for the space program by teaching some classes to school children from space.
A mix of North American and British talent will topline an untitled BBC/Science Channel movie about the search for what caused the 1986 Challenger Space Shuttle explosion. William Hurt and Bruce Greenwood will star as physicist Richard Feynman and Air Force General Donald Kutyna, respectively. Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner who also assisted on the Manhattan Project, was instrumental in uncovering the truth, as was Kutyna whom he befriended in the process. Brian Dennehy is also on board as William Rogers, the chair of the presidential commission and Joanne Whalley will play Feynman’s wife. British actors Kevin McNally (Downton Abbey),
Films Distribution heading into Cannes tells Deadline it is in full-blown negotiations for the U.S. on War Witch, which is Kim Nguyen’s Tribeca winner. The label’s co-founder Nicolas Brigaud-Robert also tells Deadline the company is on track to close the U.S. on Israeli drama Yossi. It has international sales on Maddened By His Absence (which has a special screening in Critics’ Week), 30 Beats (though Lionsgate has U.S.), and SXSW Midnighter Audience Award winner Citadel (Cinedigm and New Video have U.S. rights).
Bankside Films has taken worldwide sales rights to iLL MANORS, the directorial debut of British rapper Ben Drew who’s better known as Plan B. Revolver is releasing in the UK on June 6. The film was developed through Film London Microwave, a scheme set up in partnership with BBC Films and with support from Skillset to develop emerging London talent.
Arclight Films has boarded writer-director Ivan Sen’s Mystery Road. The $A2 million pic was financed by Screen Australia, Screen Queensland, and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Arclight has world sales rights outside Australia/NZ where the film will be released by a new distributor, Michael Wrenn’s Management of Doubt. Sen is the vanguard of a group of Aboriginal filmmakers who are making distinctive films.
John Heard and Sex and the City alum Evan Handler have joined the cast of the HBO film Too Big to Fail, while Kathy Baker has boarded the Lifetime drama pilot Against the Wall. Directed by Curtis Hanson, Too Big to Fail dissects the 2008 financial crisis and the power brokers who decided the fate of the world’s economy as the system teetered on collapse. Heard will play former Lehman Brothers president Joe Gregory, while APA-repped Handler will prortray Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs. They join a star-studded ensemble cast led by William Hurt, James Woods and Paul Giamatti.
HBO has assembled the cast of Too Big to Fail, the Curtis Hanson-directed movie about the 2008 financial crisis and the power brokers who decided the fate of the world’s economy as the system teetered on collapse. Joining William Hurt, previously set to play Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, are James Woods as Dick Fuld, the last chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers nicknamed the “Gorilla” on Wall Street; HBO regular Paul Giamatti as Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke; Billy Crudup as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner; Ed Asner as Warren Buffett; Kathy Baker as Wendy Paulson and Cynthia Nixon as Michele Davis. Also cast in the movie, set to begin production in mid-October, are Ayad Akhtar as Neel Kashkari, Topher Grace as Jim Wilkinson, Dan Hedaya as Barney Frank, Michael O’Keefe as Chris Flowers, Tony Shalhoub as John Mack and Joey Slotnick as Dan Jester.