When ‘Going Clear’ was announced, many commented on the risky nature of a feature-length documentary about a religious group notorious for lawsuits and defamation of anyone who speaks negatively about their institution.
Based on Lawrence Wright’s book ‘Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief’ Alex Gibney’s documentary debuted at 2015 Sundance, receiving immense critical praise for its historical deconstruction of Scientology’s history, their leadership, celebrity following and controversy. The documentary was scathing but never felt like a hit piece, instead using eyewitness accounts, interviews and video footage to depict the harm caused by the church.
HBO announced today that Going Clear is also HBO’s second most successful documentary to-date, behind ‘Beyonce: Life is But a Dream,’ fetching over 6.8 million viewers since its premiere on the service.
GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF has a gross audience of 6.8 million viewers to date, making it one of the most watched documentaries in the company’s history, second only to the music/doc hybrid BEYONCE: LIFE IS BUT A DREAM (8.9 million viewers in 2013).
It doesn’t surprise me too much to read of the success of ‘Going Clear.’ Both the early controversy of such a production, alongside the word of mouth being positive is always going to make for a successful documentary.
HBO still hasn’t heard from Scientology’s lawyers regarding the film, but a lack of retaliation seems kind of out of character, so certainly they haven’t let their guard down yet. While I’m not sure I wold place *too* much credence into this theory, there were rumblings that somehow Scientology was behind the Game of Thrones leak, which in reality seems unlikely, but I can’t say the thought hasn’t at least crossed my mind a few times.