On December 9th, moviegoers will line up to watch the new Christmas, Disney release, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, an adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic Christian allegory. This new movie with a religious theme follows on the heels of last years runaway blockbuster – Mel Gibson’s film "The Passion of the Christ" which grossed "almost $620 million at the box office", according to the Financial Times.
The man primarily responsible for bring the C.S. Lewis classic to the screen is Philip Anshutz, a successful Denver entrepreneur who has plowed a lot of his "winnings" from other business successes into his new film venture. Anshutz’ Walden Media has partnered up with Walt Disney to make The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at a cost of approximately $150 million.
In a profile on Anshutz for the weekend edition of the Financial Times, the author refers to Anshutz as "a devout Christian" and quotes Anshutz about his unusual decision late in life (he is 66 years old) to venture into the rough and tumble world of Hollywood "where the strike rate is one success for three duds": "‘My friends think I am a candidate for a lobotomy’ Anshutz said of his adventures in film, ‘But you know what? I don’t care. If we can make some movies that have a positive effect on people’s lives and on our culture, that’s enough for me.’"
Hollywood deserves a fair share of the blame for making the kind of movies over the past two decades which have helped accelerate the coarsening of our culture. It is refreshing that an outsider like Philip Anshutz is trying to make movies that will be entertaining and "uplifting" as well. If the first movie based on one of C.S. Lewis’ books is successful, the Financial Times reports that Disney and Anshutz have the rights to "six more books in Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series."
The author of Anshutz’s profile in the Financial Times concludes with this final comment: "Mr. Anshutz’ conviction that hardened Hollywood has it wrong and he knows what is best for consumers will be severely tested – along with the audience’s appetite for the uplifting."
My bet is on Anshutz – that there will be a market for C.S. Lewis’ classic Christian allegory just like there was a market for Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ".