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Did somebody say “Passion Effect”? A recent CNN piece claims the greatest boon of Mel’s “The Passion of the Christ” fell not to Christian filmmakers but to two Christian P.R. firms that help Hollywood navigate church basements to market their movies to the faithful. For its recent release “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” CNN explains, Disney hired California-based Motive Marketing, which “designed and maintained an extensive ‘faith and family outreach’ marketing effort, while Grace Hill Media handled the movie’s grassroots publicity.”

Most Christian media endeavors are treated as suspect—when they are not subliminally trying to convert the public, they are moneychangers in the Temple. And the article has Paul Lauer, president of Motive Marketing, defending the idea of doing p.r. for Jesus: “The company’s goal isn’t about marketing movies as much as providing congregations with tools to further their goals.” Motive, he points out, provided study guides for church groups and teachers for both “Narnia” and Mel’s “Passion.”

Don’t discount the importance of these firms, however. Not only are Lauer and the folks at Grace Hill relentless and sharp (Lauer was behind the masterly marketing of “The Passion”), Christian P.R. is crucial to the rise of Christian-oriented entertainment. Hollywood execs have long realized that the evangelical market is out there; but until they can reach it and move it, they aren’t likely to cater to it. As Motive and Grace Hill prove their worth, the suits will be more comfortable green-lighting faith-based films, creating the long-awaited “Passion Effect.”

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