SoHo Misses Out on HBO Hit

Despite sparking reviews and ratings, SoHo subscribers shouldn’t break out the bubbly just yet in anticipation of seeing the Liberace biopic, Behind the Candelabra, on Sky’s premium drama channel.

HBO made the Michael Douglas-Matt Damon vehicle and scored its highest original movie ratings in nine years with its cable-TV premiere over the weekend.

But outside the US, the Steven Soderbergh-directed production is being given a theatrical run first.

Roadshow Film Distributors will open it here in August, which means it will come out on Blu-ray and DVD around October/November.

Because of how Behind the Candelabra was bankrolled, it falls outside of Sky’s SoHo deal for HBO content.

Soderbergh told The Guardian HBO came to the party after the major studios rejected it because it wouldn’t find a significant audience “except for people who are gay”.

The weekend’s ratings put paid to that argument, earning HBO its highest ratings for the debut of an original movie – 2.4 million viewers – since Something the Lord Made in 2004.

The Hollywood Report observed the ratings were “all the more impressive considering the night it aired. Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend typically sees dips in TV usage.”

HBO’s last biopic, Phil Spector, which SoHo has screened, premiered to only 754,000 viewers.

Candelabra also earned much stronger reviews, with most mainstream critics applauding it with four- or five-star raves: “better than most American films playing in theatres” (New York Magazine); “darkly moving and provocative” (Los Angeles Times); “superbly scripted, brilliantly directed, smart but never smarmy” (The Hollywood Reporter); “sublimely entertaining” (Wall Street Journal).

But The Washington Post dubbed it “one long downward spiral” while the New York Times thought it “full of smart, funny details … but short on heart, or heat.”

Given Candelabra’swarm welcome” at the Cannes Film Festival this month, it may even make the cut for the NZ International Film Festival circuit — although one Kiwi critic was relatively underwhelmed: “a handsome if standard biopic of a rise and fall”.

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