Monday, May 7, 2012

CHCH goes big and blue with Avatar adventure

'CHers Kate Carnegie and Adam Atkinson are Na'vi going to live this down
UPDATED: Hats off to CHCH for beating the big guys to Avatar. On Sunday, the Hamilton, Ont. superstation had the broadcast premiere of the biggest moneymaker of all time. The movie drew an overnight, estimated 222,000 viewers to 'CH Sunday night, more than twice what City pulled at 8 p.m. with Canada's Got Talent (100,000).
CTV's Amazing Race finale dominated the GTA market at the 8 p.m. hour, pulling an estimated 610,000 viewers. A Stanley Cup Flyers/Devils game on CBLT (314,000) and The Simpsons on Global Toronto (247,000) also topped 'CH's Avatar, but the James Cameron film beat everything else Sunday night on Global's prime time schedule.
The Sunday before, the movie Notorious aired in roughty the same timeslot on 'CH and managed just 14,000 viewers.
How did the little Hamilton station beat its big broadcast brothers to the No. 1 movie of all time? It probably didn't hurt that the film's famous director, James Cameron, grew up in the Niagara region of southern Ontario, well within 'CH's pull. According to 'CH vice president Jennifer Chan, however, the station landed the film simply because it had the best bid. CHCH has been trying to re-establish itself as an evening broadcast movie destination since being acquired by Channel Zero in 2009
CHCH was famous for this way back in the '70s and '80s, when it aired films like The Godfather and Gone with the Wind before anybody else. These weren't just Canadian premieres but world broadcast premieres. Late local legend Sam Hebscher--Square Off host Mark Hebscher's uncle--used his connections in the theatrical distribution business to beat everyone else to the latest releases. Read more about him here at Jim Bawden's excellent TV blog.
CHCH used a little good old fashioned ballyhoo to get the word out on Avatar, sending kids out in blue face Na'vi makeup to various newsrooms, outdoor and mall locations to spike interest in the film. Nice to see, and good for them.
Not everyone was happy, however, with 'CH's presentation of Avatar. Instead of being letterboxed, the film was modified to fit most TV screens, cutting off up to a third of the action to the left and right of the image that was presented. Na'vi do that again!

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