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'Going Clear' on pace to be HBO's second-most-watched documentary

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Academy Award-winning documentary director Alex Gibney ( Taxi to the Dark Side , Mea Maxima Culpa ) trains his investigative lens on the Church of…
Sam Painter

HBO’s investigation into the Church of Scientology has been racking up so many views since it debuted just two weeks ago that it’s likely to trail only the 2013 movie Beyonce as the network’s most-watched documentary of the past decade, the Associated Press reported.

To date, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief has been seen by over 5.5 million people, with Beyonce having been viewed by over 9 million people. Before the film premiered, The Church of Scientology ran a full-page ad in The New York Times denouncing the film, even pointing out its similarity to the since-retracted story in Rolling Stone regarding an alleged rape at the University of Virginia.

“I didn’t think we expected this kind of noise and this kind of energy, but we’ll take it,” Sheila Nevins, the chief of HBO’s documentary unit told the AP. “I didn’t think it would be this controversial.”

Nevins said she’s already worrying about what HBO can do next to continue their current success. “How do you match people taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times and it’s not your obituary?,” she said. “The real problem for anxiety-prone people like me is what comes next.”