Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, which will be in stores next week, is already showing signs of being one of the industry’s biggest sellers, without the use of traditional marketing techniques. Twentieth Century Fox, who passed on the opportunity to release the film in theaters, has been the biggest proponent of the home-release, with their efforts being focused on the Christian population.
Since a month after The Passion’s release in theatres, Fox has sent 260,000 postcards to churches nationwide and over 6 million e-mails to Christian households promoting www.thepassionofthechrist.com, where customers could pre-order in bulk quantities of 50 up till July 31st. Orders for the film have already surpassed projections by 20 percent, with over 15 million copies ready to be shipped.
High consumer awareness of the film has minimized advertising efforts to the general population to a simple reminder about the release. As stated by Jeff Yordy, marketing director of 20th Century Fox: "What we said was, 'This is the most moving film of 2004, and it is available on DVD,' "
Judith McCourt, director of research at Video Store Magazine, which tracks home-video sales, comments on the DVD release of the film, which made more than $370 million while in theatres: "It's kind of an eclectic piece people will want in their collections. This is going to be, in some vein, as popular a movie as 'Finding Nemo,' which had long sales legs. We are going to see that kind of selling power."
The Michigan based chain Family Christian Stores is capitalizing on the “evangelical aspect,” as stated by senior vice president of marketing and strategy, Ann Bradford, of the film. The retailer, active in over 35 states, is offering The Passion as part of a package that includes a free copy of the educational video Jesus: Fact or Fiction, as well as a 20 percent discount on a future purchase. The move comes in response to a recent survey in which nearly 50 percent of Family Christian customers said they would use the movie for evangelical purposes.
Just as with the release of the film in theaters, many Christians are taking advantage of the opportunity that the DVD will bring to share their faith. As one Chicago pastor says, "The idea is to make it an investment. Not just for us to buy an individual copy for our own pleasure, but to make it an investment in someone's spiritual journey."