| Long are the days since 1956 when
Hollywood made religious movies like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.
These days movies with religious themes generate controversy, primarily because
instead of bringing Biblical epics to life, they question religion or the
fundamental beliefs of thereof.
The latest movie to
spark religious controversy is The Golden Compass, based on the first book of a
trilogy. Dr. William Donohue, President of the
Catholic League, is not only
concerned with the movie content, but also that this movie may bring children
to want to read the other books, all of which contain content the Catholic
League says is in direct conflict with their teachings. The Catholic League
posted a booklet on their website discussing the movie.
In the mean time, The Golden Compass has had a
strong opening in Europe, while USA Today reported the opening in the US with
the title "'Compass' box-office win is far from golden." This may be because
percentage-wise, US consumers are generally far more religious than their
European counterparts. Regardless, the movie is doing well, bringing in more
than $100 so far, and the theatrical run is far from over, not to mention
future DVD sales and possible sequels based on the remaining two books.
In response to the boycott calls, New Line Cinema
which recently celebrated its 40th birthday made the following statement: "The
Golden Compass is an exciting, entertaining fantasy adventure that we believe
audiences will enjoy. The film is neither anti-Christian nor anti-religion. The
critically-acclaimed, award-winning novel on which the film is based has been
praised by countless clergy and religious scholars, including the Archbishop of
Canterbury, for its deep spirituality and exploration of important theological
The Catholic League is no stranger to
calling for boycotts. Considering the purchasing power of Catholics world wide,
Catholic League boycotts send shockwaves to their targets. Boycott Watch
reported about how the Catholic League's boycott against Wal-Mart for not
saying Merry Christmas resulted in Wal-Mart retracting that policy in about
24 hours, among
In regard to other movies with religious
content, when Mel Gibson was producing The Passion of the Christ, Boycott Watch
contacted used a direct inside contact to speak to Mel Gibson's agent regarding
the charges of anti-Semitism in the movie, and the response was nothing but
screaming at us. At the time Boycott Watch felt as if the entire controversy
was just a publicity stunt to get free advertising, and we reported as not to
play their game. After the famous Mel Gebson drunken tirade, we realized we
were wrong. In the mean time though, the Divinci Code movie producers tried a
similar PR stunt over religious content. While that attempt for free PR worked
marginally, the movie was controversial yet the Catholic League was quick to
point out that they did not issue a boycott call in that case.
It is not clear if the Catholic League boycott
itself is responsible for the less than expected US opening at this time, but
it is difficult to believe it played no part. The Catholic League has a very
strong following and many non-Catholics will comply with the boycott as well.
In the mean time, New Line Cinema reportedly has plans to make two more movies
based on the trilogy and some have postulated that New Line Cinema will
re-write part of the movie to avoid criticism. Since some of the more
controversial story lines are fundamental to the story, so we doubt that will
happen. The real test to determine if the other two movies will be produces
will come when the final box office numbers are revealed.