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‘Flight’ lands A&E record

Telepic soars high on cabler

A&E scored the largest aud in its 22-year history — 5.9 million viewers — for Monday premiere of the 9/11 telepic “Flight 93.”

Two-hour movie posted A&E highs in the key demos of adults 25-54 (2.9 million), 18-49 (2.7 million) and 18-34 (1 million).

The events of Sept. 11 have proved potent material for television before: Discovery Channel drew an impressive 7 million viewers last fall to its special “The Flight That Fought Back,” a mix of reenactments and interviews.

A&E programming chief Robert DeBitetto said that while the two events launched with some proximity, his net’s take was decidedly different.

“There is precious little dramatic programming about 9/11, and I would say we deserve kudos for having the bravery to be the first network to offer a dramatic expression of what happened that day,” DeBitetto said. “There are plenty of great documentaries about the events — but a well-done drama is extremely powerful.”

There’s more on the way. ABC has a 9/11-themed miniseries from Marc Platt (“Legally Blonde”) in the works; NBC had planned its own multihour take on the attacks in collaboration with Imagine TV but killed the project citing financial and competitive concerns. On the feature side, a trio of pics are coming up from, separately, Oliver Stone; Paul Greengrass; and Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle.

DeBitetto noted that there was internal debate on whether to dramatize the events less than five years after the tragedy.

“We were scrupulous with the editorial, and very careful and honest about what we did and did not know,” he said. Movie is based on facts from the public record, including the documented conversations between passengers and surviving friends and family members, flight control centers and other pilots in the air and the U.S. government and military officials.

Telepic, which dramatized the final hours and actions of the passengers aboard Flight 93, is from producer David Gerber (“The Lost Battalion”) and director Peter Markle (A&E’s “Faith of My Fathers”). Fox TV Studios produced with A&E.

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