Wednesday, April 21, 2004
New York Despite being the year's biggest box-office blockbuster so far, "The Passion of the Christ" seems unlikely to find a home on the four biggest broadcast networks.
Mel Gibson's Icon Productions has been shopping the movie to television. Only ABC has confirmed turning it down, but executives speaking on condition of anonymity said it was doubtful for CBS, NBC and Fox, too.
The movie's graphic scenes of Jesus Christ's crucifixion were said to make broadcasters skittish, particularly in the post-Janet Jackson era when government officials are closely watching what goes on television.
"There might be a lot of baggage because of the violence," said Brad Adgate, an analyst for the ad buying firm Horizon Media. "That can put some pressure on advertisers not to buy this."
Fox is awaiting the evaluation of its broadcast standards department before making a decision on whether to pursue airing it, the network's entertainment chief, Gail Berman, said.
Besides the film's violent content, a television network that airs "The Passion" would also inherit controversy about it. Some Jewish organizations objected to the movie for fear it would cause bad blood between Christians and Jews.
Content issues aside, broadcast networks have been de-emphasizing theatrical movies in recent years, figuring many viewers prefer seeing them in theaters, on DVD or on commercial-free cable.
The movie has also reportedly been shopped to pay cable networks, where content would not be much of an issue.
HBO would not comment, but executives there have privately said the network has a full plate of movie premieres already scheduled for the next year.
Showtime has passed on the movie, a spokesman said, and the Starz pay cable network hasn't made a decision.
Brent Bozell, the founder of the conservative media watchdog group, the Parents Television Council, said if broadcast networks turned down "The Passion" because of disturbing scenes, "then there is rampant hypocrisy in the halls of Hollywood.
"There doesn't seem to be a problem with other violent content," he said.
The PTC has called on TV networks to stop airing graphically violent material. But it sent an alert to all of its members earlier this year urging them to go to the theater to see "The Passion."
The movie "may be violent, but it is also one of the most beautiful, powerful and instructive movies ever made," Bozell said.
He said the PTC wouldn't endorse or oppose putting "The Passion" on television.