The Narnia Effect

'Narnia' has the potential to rake in record profits--and influence the type of films Hollywood makes.

BY: Mark Joseph

 

Shortly before the opening of "The Passion of the Christ," Mel Gibson's groundbreaking blockbuster film, I co-wrote an opinion piece with "X-Men" producer Ralph Winter about a tidal wave of box office receipts that we saw coming. The Los Angeles Times had suggested that the film might open at $25 million in box office receipts, but we had a far different prediction: north of $70 million--and even we were off the mark. In reality the film made in excess of $115 million in its first week at the box office. Not even Mel Gibson saw such a tidal wave of tickets coming his way.



We had titled the piece "Passion Changes Everything," but in reality it didn't, because many so-called experts in Hollywood simply dismissed it as a one time event, a fluke that couldn't be repeated.

None of us who foresaw that huge opening were relying on inside movie- business information. We were just listening to the voices of people around the country who don't typically attend many movies and had a pretty good idea of the kind of stories they were interested in watching--and not watching--on the big screen.

Once again signs are pointing to another hit movie that will be seen by some of the same people who made "The Passion" such a box office sensation: "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe."

I've had a front row seat for these two recent transformative events in Hollywood, having produced the CD of music "inspired-by" "The Passion of the Christ" and worked as a consultant for the company that produced "Narnia" (though I am no longer there). This experience gave me a glimpse into how Hollywood has come to discover that the half of the American population that attends church each week isn't a niche market--it

is

the market. If a film can successfully speak to them and at the same time not alienate non-churchgoers, there is box office magic to be made.

In the case of "The Passion," the important lessons to be learned weren't that the country was yearning for Aramaic films subtitled in English, R-rated gore-fests, or films to which many people wouldn't bring their children. In spite of these things and not because of them, traditionalists flocked to see it anyway in record numbers.

But "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" is the perfect storm. It is one of the most beloved stories of the 20th century, enjoyed by both devout Christians, those of other faiths and their secular counterparts, and is suitable for children and grandparents alike (and, not insignificantly, is presented in English).

News of the death of the film industry will be put on hold
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_Related Features
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  • Continued on page 2: »

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