"The Golden Compass" fantasy movie, which cast a thinly-veiled Catholic Church as its villain, had a debut weaker than expected in United States movie theaters over the weekend, Reuters reports.
The $180 million film, made by New Line Cinema, sold an estimated $26.1 million in tickets as of December 9. Though it is estimated the film will bring in $28 million for its full opening weekend, it falls short of New Line's expectations of a $30-$40 million launch.
Thomas K. Arnold of USA Today fingered the boycott of the film as a possible cause for its poor showing at the box office. "Compass, based on a series of children's books by British author and outspoken atheist Philip Pullman, was slammed by some groups as anti-religious.” He also mentions that the boycott reached down to the grassroots level saying, “[s]ome Catholic schools even sent out fliers or e-mails urging parents not to let their children see the film, which follows a girl on a crusade to help persecuted children."
"Rolf Mittweg of New Line Cinema, which released Compass, concedes that the religion controversy might have had an effect," USA Today reported.
The movie is based on the first book of Philip Pullman's trilogy "His Dark Materials," a series aimed at children. Pullman, a militant atheist, sets his story in an alternate universe controlled by an oppressive religious authority modeled on a very disparaging view of the Catholic Church.
"The Golden Compass" in its film version is being boycotted by the Catholic League mainly for its potential to steer children toward the atheistic trilogy of books that inspired the movie.
A reviewer writing for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops controversially gave the movie a positive review, which was then used in the film's publicity. The advertisers for the movie mentioned that they spoke extensively with the reviewer but then misquoted his review in movie advertising so that the critic seemed even more approving.
Secular reviewers were not too pleased with the movie. Scott Holleran, a movie reviewer for Box Office Mojo, one of the top movie trackers, had this to say about the film:
"With an air of theatricality, fun and fantasy—battling the Vatican-ish Magisterium's minions—The Golden Compass recalls everything from Pirates of the Caribbean and Escape from Witch Mountain to The Lord of the Rings. But it lacks cohesion, as if it's mandated to include each literary invention without regard to intelligibility. The Golden Compass lets the needle spin around and around.”
“When it stops, with something to do with lost kids, particle dust and hints at heroic Lyra's aristocratic origins, it isn't particularly important. One of the dozens of characters asks: "Is that all?" which sums up the feeling one gets after sitting through this busy, noisy extravaganza."