According to Nielsen, ABC’s annual rebroadcast of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956) pulled in 5.9 million viewers Saturday night. The religious epic, which stars Charlton Heston as Moses, has been a ratings winner for ABC every year since 1973 when the network first began its tradition of airing the classic over the Easter/Passover weekend.
Last year the re-broadcast won its timeslot. This year, it was beat by NCAA basketball.
Context is what makes this 5.9 million number even more impressive. The Ten Commandments is not only 57 years-old, but it is also not an obscure film. In 1973, if you wanted to watch Heston step down from Mount Sinai holding laws written by God on two stone tablets, you were forced to wait for ABC to air it.
But even after two decades-plus of being widely available on home video (VHS, DVD, Blu-ray), DeMille’s 220-minute VistaVision extravaganza still pulls nearly ten-times as many viewers as that of the HBO phenom Girls which flopped in its season two finale with 600,000 viewers.
Dedicated Christian-basher and evangelical atheist Ricky Gervais … well, his Life’s Too Short didn’t earn a second season on HBO.
Moreover, ABC adds over an hour of commercials to its broadcast. Still, more people tuned in to watch a 57 year-old religious film with commercials than tuned in on average for the last three or four seasons of the Tina Fey sitcom, 30 Rock.
Just last week, 51 year-old Jim Carrey, who has never won an Academy Award, mocked Commandments star Heston in a Funny or Die video attacking those of us who support Second Amendment civil rights. The chorus of Carrey’s song included the lyrics, “Charlton Heston movies are no longer in demand.”
Talk about poor timing.
Carrey, who hasn’t had a live-action film cross the $100 million domestic threshold in eight years, just suffered another mega-flop last month with The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. After three weeks in release, Carrey’s big-budget comedy has grossed less than $21 million.
With ticket prices now averaging $7.96, that means Carrey’s latest big studio comedy has sold only 2.5 million tickets.
Another way to put that is that a 57 year-old Charlton Heston movie that’s been rerun for going on forty years is “in demand” by 3.5 million more Americans than Carrey’s newest film.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC