For many Christian moviegoers, 2009 didn't get off to a particularly good start; the big industry news at the first of the year was the aftermath of Disney's decision to withdraw from the Chronicles of Narnia franchise, leaving the future of the series in question and Walden Media in dire straits. At the time, it was reported that the split between Disney and Walden was largely based on the disappointing box office performance of Prince Caspian, but there were also some vague rumors of "creative differences" between the two. Details of those differences continue to emerge, and Patrick Goldstein, of the Los Angeles Times, pieces together the story of what he calls "the secret history of why Disney dropped Narnia."

According to Goldsteain, the real estate tycoon and "supporter of Christian conservative causes" Phil Anschutz was a major behind-the-scenes player. In Goldstein's words, "Anschutz essentially put a gun to Disney's head" after the first Narnia film proved successful "and demanded that the studio renegotiate its deal with Walden. Anschutz insisted that Disney either gave back a sizable chunk of the studio's lucrative distribution fee or Anschutz would distribute the Narnia series on his own. Believing the franchise was too good to give up, Disney reluctantly changed the terms of its Walden deal, but the renegotiation poisoned relations between the two behemoths. When the second film faltered, there was so little good will left over that Disney had far less qualms about cutting its ties with the franchise."

Walden was also upset over Disney's shift in marketing for Prince Caspian, says Goldstein. Where the first movie was released at Christmas in order to appeal to families, Disney released the second one during the summer and employed an edgier marketing strategy, hoping to rope in teenagers but thus alienating many family audiences.

Meanwhile, Walden is reportedly in talks with Fox, which has the inside track on picking up the franchise for its third film Voyage of the Dawn Treader. A deal with Fox would likely mean a much smaller budget; and if no deal is reached, Sony and Warner have both expressed interest in acquiring Narnia. Regardless, fans can rest fairly certain that another trip to Narnia is likely in the works for some point in the future.

In other movie news:

WSJ examines "what Christians watch" (Wall Street Journal)
Considers the success of Fireproof, flop of Billy: The Early Years

Next Spider-Man movie to release in 2011 (MTV)
J.K. Simmons confirms date; McGuire, Raimi expected back

Dakota Fanning in talks for Twilight sequel (E! Online)
Would play a vampire in New Moon

Slumdog continues its winning ways at SAG Awards (LA Times)
Meanwhile, Streep wins for Doubt, Penn for Milk

p>Merry and Pippin in upcoming Hobbit movies? (MTV)
Dominic Monaghan says there is a good chance

Tom and Jerry movie on the way (Variety)
Mix of CG and live action, a la Alvin and the Chipmunks

The Terri Schiavo Story out on DVD (official site)
Award-winning documentary available to order

Knightley, Farrell to star in London Boulevard (Variety)
Directorial debut from screenwriter of The Departed

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