July 29, 1985 12:00 PM

As every cable customer knows, the movie channels have a chronic problem: There aren’t enough good movies to go around, not nearly enough to fill more than 700 hours of programming a month, often not enough to make the channel worth what it costs. That’s why they repeat hits as often as a Top 40 radio station; that’s why they show flop flicks like Where the Boys Are (’84). And that’s why they started creating their own programming. The two kings of pay cable, HBO and Showtime, tried different tricks. Showtime relied on series—Faerie Tale Theatre, The Paper Chase, Brothers—and stage plays remade for TV, like Master Harold…and the Boys, ending up with some excellent entertainment. HBO relied on its own made-for-cable minis—The Far Pavilions—and movies, like Gulag and The Glitter Dome, ending up with some undiluted dreck. One night does not a trend make, but there’s a switch this week: Showtime has made a movie, Murder in Space, and it’s dreadful. HBO has made a movie. Blackout, and it’s great. Maybe it just takes time to learn how to make movies. Maybe it’s a fluke. This week, we take a look at this small contrast in cable, then at Live Aid.

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