According to the marketing plan for "The Passion of the Christ," Paul Lauer was the general contractor.
Mr. Lauer, a Los Angeles entrepreneur and president of Motive Entertainment, started mobilizing the Christian community months before "The Passion" had a distributor, convincing filmmaker Mel Gibson that the movie should be screened relentlessly to get evangelical support. To guide the grassroots efforts, Mr. Lauer assembled some 15 marketing companies around the country to seed the movie with churches, youth groups, Christian radio stations, TV ministries, religious colleges and family-values organizations.
"There's a very large, hungry audience out there," Mr. Lauer, 42, says. "If you feed faith-based entertainment into that pipeline, they will respond to it."
"The Passion," turned down by every major studio, was released on Ash Wednesday amid a whirlwind of controversy and publicity. It pulled in $370 million at the box office and became the highest-grossing R-rated movie in history, stunning Hollywood. The DVD version, which was released in August, through mid-October had made $217 million in DVD and VHS rentals and sales, according to trade publication DVD Exclusive.
Mr. Lauer, an event producer and publisher, now often hears from film- makers: "Can you do a `Passion' on this?"
By winning over the Christian community and capitalizing on the controversy, marketers "built this into a crossover film" with scant media spending, says Peter Sealey, marketing professor at UC Berkeley and former marketing president at Columbia Pictures. "It was a phenomenon, and it was created by the consumer."