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Original TV movies can't outfly 'Santa'

November 26, 2002|Brian Lowry

As if to underscore the malaise that has settled over the made-for-TV movie, the most-watched film Sunday night -- when CBS' heavily promoted "Martin and Lewis" faced ABC's fact-based "The Pennsylvania Miners' Story" -- was a rerun of "The Santa Clause."

The holiday film starring Tim Allen flew off with more than 17 million viewers on ABC, based on Nielsen Media Research estimates. It was the biggest audience for a movie telecast this season.

ABC's "Miners' Story," rushed into production in time for the rating sweeps, averaged 13.9 million viewers versus 13.2 million for the biographical "Martin and Lewis" -- CBS' highest-rated Sunday movie this season. Both those numbers, however, are less than spectacular. With movie ratings down, there has been speculation that CBS may replace its long-running Sunday franchise with series. NBC countered with the theatrical release "Runaway Bride," drawing nearly 12 million viewers.

In addition to "The Santa Clause," Sunday's other standout was "The Simpsons," which tallied 17.5 million viewers, its biggest audience since March 2001.

The WB also posted its highest Sunday ever with the perennial "The Wizard of Oz," with an estimated 7.6 million viewers.

Brian Lowry

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