Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Can Disney Create "Passion" for Narnia Audience?
Leave it to a Hollywood studio to try and manufacture the repeat of a phenomenon. The Walt Disney Company -- who has invested substantially in the Lord of the Rings-like fantasy, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe -- is hoping the Christian themes of the C.S. Lewis story will play big with church-goers. In fact, the studio has arranged preview screenings around the country (with the cooperation of local churches) to make the film known to the faithful before it opens wide in theaters. Clearly, Disney is trying to repeat the success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, which ultimately became one of the top ten most popular films of all time, in large part, due to group ticket pre-sales to churches. Disney, no doubt, is looking for a double punch here. Not only does it want the church-going population to get excited about the film, it's also hoping that the audience that lifted The Lord of the Rings trilogy to more than $1 billion in sales worldwide, will flock to Narnia as well. What Disney fails to realize, however, is that both of those films were TRUE phenomenons. The Passion of the Christ made its money despite the fact that every major Hollywood studio (including Disney) turned it down. Likewise, The Lord of the Rings, was a risk from the start, as New Line Cinema had committed to production of all three films before knowing if the first would be a hit. I realize you can manufacture a blockbuster (War of the Worlds is evidence of that), but can you truly manufacture a phenomenon? I think not. Not that Hollywood cares. For Disney, The Lord of the Rings + The Passion of the Christ = The Chronicles of Narnia. We'll see.