I heard it as early as Friday. The DJs on a local rock station were previewing the weekend movie releases, as they happened on The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. One of them remarked, "Did you hear Disney hired a Christian company to promote this film? What were they thinking?"
Obviously, "they" were right on the money. Narnia was a record-shattering success; the film adaptation of the C.S. Lewis children's classic set a new high-water mark in Ireland, and did better than 5 times the business of its closest competitor in the US--the George Clooney thriller, Syriana--as it bumped the latest Harry Potter tale to a distant third. All told, Chronicles commanded $108.8 million in its opening weekend worldwide, zooming straight to #1 at the box office in 14 countries. All this, for what MSNBC film critic John Hartl calls a "Lord of the Rings wannabe."
So troubling was Narnia's success (and by extension, that of ABC parent company Disney) that it commanded the network "teaser" for NBC's Today Show early Monday. The promo referenced the steady growth of Christian-themed products, as most other entertainment sectors remained flat by comparison. "But what message are you buying," the voiceover announcer worried.
We didn't have to wait long to find out. Before 8am eastern, a somber reporter stood in the empty box office line of a local movie theater, citing the undeniable success of Christian books, concerts, CDs, and films--including the weekend champion, Narnia. But what does this phenomenon mean? Money--lots of it--and the Today reporter couldn't help but mention that fact, as if to infer profits in the hands of Christian corporations and individuals might be something for the rest of the world to fear.
The success of Narnia is, indeed, something to worry about for NBC Universal, producers of the very expensive King Kong remake opening this week. But the triumph of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe should also be a proud and humbling moment for all of Christian media, and the hundreds of churches that joined in the celebration. We should be thanking God for His blessing on the effort, and praying that the underlying themes of the film are driven home to many that do not yet know the One inferred by the character of Aslan.
I do not wish to imply that Christendom should begin to angle for box-office glory, or somehow measure spiritual success by worldly standards like ticket sales. But perhaps we could take notice of the great synergy we can generate by working together toward a common goal...the great hunger that exists for our message of hope...and the powerful venue that film provides for meaningful dialogue about the stuff that truly matters. Screenwriter and author Brian Godawa refers to motion pictures as "the parables of our day." Might we learn to use redemptive storytelling as did our Master: to communicate to a lost and desperate world, the powerful Truth that makes men free.