''Chronicles of Narnia'' gets a conservative endorsement -- The Disney film is receiving a ''Passion''-like boost from religious groups

More than a year after The Passion of the Christ spawned predictions that every studio would start grassroots Christian marketing programs, selling Hollywood movies to religious groups remains a rarity. So it was a surprise when EW received an e-mail about Disney’s Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe from Focus on the Family — the controversial conservative group led by Dr. James Dobson that’s known for a staunch anti — gay marriage platform. Focus’ pitchwoman noted that ”after the success Christians brought to The Passion of the Christ, I know Disney” — which screened the film for the group in advance — ”is banking on a big Christian turnout” and announced that FOF had ”formulated an opinion on whether…we will recommend [Narnia] to our more than two million constituents.” (They will.)

Sure, the prospect of 2 million ticket buyers is alluring. But is the endorsement of a potentially polarizing political/religious interest group worth it? Disney senior VP of publicity Dennis Rice insists that despite the fact that the studio hired the same marketing guru for Narnia that Mel Gibson used for Passion, such plugs are not Disney’s goal — and that less than 5 percent of Narnia‘s massive marketing budget is tagged for religious organizations. Early screenings, he says, targeted everyone from summer campers to librarians: ”We’re simply showing the film to as many different people as possible.”

Aggressively publicized thumbs-ups from groups like FOF could turn off secular audiences, but director Andrew Adamson says he’s not worried. ”There’s some concern about the [book’s allegorical Christian] ideology being weakened, so we’ve made efforts to reassure various groups,” he notes. ”That’s been misinterpreted as aiming the movie to Christian audiences. I think anyone who enjoyed the book will enjoy the movie.”

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • Movie
  • 140 minutes