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Piggybacking on <I>The Passion</I>

28 Jul, 2004 By: Brendan Howard

With 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment expecting record-breaking numbers for the home video debut of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ to rival its $364 million box office take, it's the season for other suppliers to piggyback their Jesus-themed titles on and around the date.

Passion streets Aug. 31 (prebook July 21).“We're seeing purchase intent across both genders and all age groups well above the norm, so we expect to see exceptionally strong sales for the DVD and VHS,” said Jeff Yordy, director of marketing for Fox.

While Yordy explained that the studio isn't specifically marketing any titles along with Passion, it does have the DVD debut of the 1966 Charlton Heston epic The Bible … In the Beginning ($14.98) streeting the same day.

Other studios, however, are taking advantage.

BBC Video is hoping to capitalize on the release with the day-and-date DVD debut of the documentary, Jesus: The Complete Story ($19.98).

“We actually had it in our schedule for next Easter, but we moved up the date,” said Burton Cromer, BBC Video VP, consumer products. “Anytime something becomes a phenomenon like [Passion], people's curiosity goes up.”

Cromer said Jesus: The Complete Story will appeal to “a lot of nonreligious people” like those who saw Passion in theaters and want to understand “what it was like to live in Palestine at the time of Jesus and what his life might have been like.”

BBC Video also has the currently available “Ancient Evidence” series, with $9.98 DVD titles Mysteries of Jesus, Mysteries of the Old Testament and Mysteries of the Apostle also available in a $29.98 gift set.

Paramount Home Entertainment is releasing South Park: The Passion of the Jew Aug. 31. Paramount is apparently matching creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker's penchant for making episodes of the irreverent, raunchy animated show relevant to current events by releasing the title early, outside of the established boxed-set schedule. The $19.99 DVD also will sport two other religious episodes: “Christian Rock Hard” and “Red Hot Catholic Love.”

A week earlier, Aug. 24, Paramount is releasing the drama Judas (DVD about $20), about the relationship between Jesus and his betrayer; and the documentary From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians (DVD about $20).

Focusing on the final week of Jesus' life, NBC News Presents: The Last Days of Jesus (DVD $19.98, VHS $14.98) from Universal Studios Home Video streets Aug. 31 (prebook July 27) and features Stone Phillips in Jerusalem reporting on the latest historical information. Bonus material on both the tape and DVD include the featurettes “Jesus the Healer,” “Living Faith,” “God and the Brain” and more.

Released far earlier than Passion, but sure to bask in some of its reflected glow, is MGM Home Entertainment's July 6 DVD debut of 1965's The Greatest Story Ever Told ($14.95), the story of Jesus from birth to resurrection, with an all-star cast including Max Von Sydow, Charlton Heston, Martin Landau, Roddy McDowall, Sidney Poitier and more.

A documentary about Jesus' last days through the eyes of his apostle Peter is featured in Koch Entertainment's Aug. 10 release The Power and Passion of Christ (DVD $9.98).

Hundreds of people read and analyze the much-discussed words of Jesus' gospel in Wellspring Media's recently released The Gospel According to Jesus (DVD/VHS $19.98). Participants include author Maya Angelou, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon and inspirational author Deepak Chopra.

A week after Passion, Sept. 7, the Jewish-themed video supplier SISU Home Entertainment will have the DVD debut of the Elie Wiesel-narrated Great Figures of the Bible, a documentary set focusing on some of the stories shared by the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Abraham and Isaac, Job, Moses and David. The four-DVD set or six-VHS set are each $59.95.

There'll be something for the kids a week earlier, Aug. 24, with Hart Sharp Video's “Baby Miracle” titles Noah's Ark and The Story of Creation (DVD $14.99 each, VHS $9.99 each).

A week earlier, First Run Features will release two titles about the Christian church: Merton: A Film Biography (with the bonus film Remembering Thomas Merton) and The Company: Inigo and His Jesuits (with the bonus film Thomas Berry: Dreamer of the Universe). Both titles are $24.95 on DVD.

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