Popcorn, Soda And Salvation

Some advertisers may be gun-shy about Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. But not the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

“You want to see the most scandalous story ever?” asks a man onscreen. “It’s full of betrayal, sin, adultery, greed, envy, weakness, poverty, torture, murder.” The words flash in bold white on black. The camera returns to the man, who says, “Redemption.” A voiceover says, “Now playing at a Baptist church near you.”

The spot, by Anderson Marketing Group in San Antonio, breaks Feb. 25 in Texas theaters to coincide with the film. Agency CEO Chuck Anderson says the client wants to take advantage of the “heightened awareness” to invite moviegoers to learn more about Christ in its 5,700 churches statewide. But the ad is causing a bit of a stir. Regal Cinemas will run it, but AMC Theatres balked. “The ad content bumped up against some long-standing guidelines about having terminology that referred to violence or sex,” says Rick King, spokesman for AMC. The solution: replacing “adultery,” “torture” and “murder” with “fear,” “anger” and “deceit.” “The Convention had a willingness to compromise on the language, and all’s well that ends well,” says King.

Movie previews can be somewhat graphic. But AMC insists that ads—part of the “pre-show entertainment” leading up to the published start time—must be G-rated, says King. Which took Anderson aback. “I’m an avid moviegoer,” he says, “and I know the kinds of things they show in theaters. Yes, it did surprise me.”