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Disney couldn’t do it, though “The Chronicles of Narnia” was a darned good try. New Line didn’t connect with audiences with “The Nativity Story.” But if anyone can recreate the box-office magic that Mel Gibson found in “The Passion of the Christ,” shouldn’t it be David Kirkpatrick, co-founder of Good News Holdings, a Christian media company?
A born-again Christian and former president of Paramount Pictures, Kirkpatrick has attracted investments from Rupert Murdoch’s news corporation and former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, and has formed partnerships with Christian mainstays like publisher Tyndale House and Promisekeepers. He’s got serious cash–yesterday’s Boston Globe reports that he’s looking to buy a few hundred acres near Beantown as a home for his fledgling studio.
Kirkpatrick also has a good eye for what sells. Among the company’s first offerings: a movie version of “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt,” Anne Rice’s first novel since she found religion and gave up vampires, and a teen-horror flick called “Dudleytown.” And if Kirkpatrick has any doubts about what is evangelically correct, he can turn to George Barna, the premier pollster of the Christian world. (Barna happens to be chairman of Good News Holdings.)
But as promising, and interesting as it is, don’t expect Kirkpatrick’s plan for a new Christian media company to hit the jackpot. “The Passion” was visionary, unorthodox and slightly loony–a truly independent film, no matter how much it cost to make–and no movie studio, with backers and focus groups and theologically keepers, will be able to reproduce Gibson’s success. Expect from Kirkpatrick precisely what movie studios have been offering religious audiences since Cecil B. DeMille: great special effects and treacly sentiments.

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