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Idol Chatter

Once upon an innocent time, Mel Gibson smuggled a print of “The Passion of the Christ” to John Paul II, who reportedly murmured, “It is as it was,” as the credits rolled. Then it turned out JP2 might not have said it at all, or maybe was talking about Propaganda Night at the old Krakow Kino. Nevermind. Gibson had gone nuclear with an already genius marketing stroke pioneered by the makers of 1999’s “The Omega Code“–circulating a faith-based flick to the religious community first to build good will and buzz.

Now the Vatican has taken the conceit further by actually hosting a premiere of New Line Cinema’s “The Nativity Story,” this year’s faith-based blockbuster. The movie will be screened for the Pontiff on November 26th in the Aulo Paolo VI (Pope Paul VI Hall, above)–the Mother of All Church Basements. Nobody does red carpets like the Vatican, and treading on them will be the film’s director, Catherine Hardwicke, screenwriter Mike Rich, and the movie’s stars and producers.

New Line couldn’t pay for this kind of publicity–they couldn’t be, right?–assuming that Benedict XVI’s vetters have checked out “The Nativity” for theologically correctness, and the film will get His Holiness’s Nihil Obstat (Latin for one thumb way up). Not to mention the quotes on the ads: “It is as it was!”–Benedict XVI.

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