Magazine article Variety

CNN's Sexton Talks Platform Diving for Docs

Magazine article Variety

CNN's Sexton Talks Platform Diving for Docs

Article excerpt

Last year, two CNN original documentaries, "RBG" and "Three Identical Strangers," garnered $14 million and $12 million, respectively, at the box office. The abnormally lofty B.O. numbers made the film arm of the cable news channel an unlikely belle of the nonfiction community. Behind both docus was executive producer and CNN Films vice president, Courtney Sexton.

Much has been made about the theatrical success of "RBG," "Three Identical Strangers" and most recently "Apollo 11," which grossed just over $9 million. Former HBO docs topper Sheila Nevins used to say that the happiest home for a good doc is on the small screen. How do you feel about the theatrical success of CNN docs?

We are not going to make a film that we don't think will work on CNN, but when we look at a film we absolutely consider how will it work on other platforms. I don't think that films should live and die on CNN. We are actually more successful when our films do well theatrically. When you see people watching our [docs] on planes, or consuming them in other places [besides CNN] there becomes a buzz and word-of-mouth. So we rely on those other platforms to keep our films relevant. Our strategy is that we want our documentaries to work everywhere because ultimately that's going to be better for CNN.

This year CNN Films received nine Primetime Emmy nods for "RBG," "Three Identical Strangers" and "Love, Gilda." Did it surprise you that these films, which for the most part are upbeat and highly entertaining, were recognized by the Television Academy? …

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