Today's theatrical debut of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a pretty big event for family entertainment giant Disney (NYSE:DIS). It's launching early enough in December, and Disney has moved other releases out of the way to position the film as its big holiday hit to close out the year. However, there is also something out of the ordinary as to how Disney is going about in marketing this film. The same company that was once boycott fodder for some church groups has embraced the film's spirituality as a way to promote Narnia to a religious audience.

It's a strategy that clearly worked last year with The Passion of The Christ, a film that was passed on by the major studios yet still became the third highest-grossing movie of 2004. Narnia is clearly more subtle about its Christian themes, but Disney has learned well after joining the big studios in watching The Passion of The Christ's success from afar.

As I drove my son to school last week, he asked me when churches began to allow advertisements. Confused over the query, I turned to see a Presbyterian church with a large banner out front promoting Narnia. With nearly 100 million copies of books sold in the C.S. Lewis series -- in more than three dozen different languages -- the appeal was already baked into the film.

Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) had no problem making its The Lord of the Rings trilogy a smash hit without playing up its Christian allegorical themes. Disney won't be taking that kind of chance. It has already treated pastors and religious leaders to complimentary preview screenings while arming them with promotional materials.

There is no denying that there is money to be made in catering to the faithful. Christian books and music accounted for $7 billion and $4 billion in sales respectively last year. However, as Disney is out to prove, you don't have to be Thomas Nelson (NYSE:TNM), Courier (NASDAQ:CRRC), or even ServiceMaster (NYSE:SVM) to grab a slice of that growing pie.

Come back next week, when Steven Mallas will be taking a closer look at how the company's opening weekend ultimately shaped out. A strong showing -- along with Disney's surprise animated hit Chicken Little -- would really help the company's studio keep up the pace in fiscal 2006 with its better performing theme parks and media networks divisions.

The film has been getting generally favorable but still mixed reviews from the leading critics at News Corp.'s (NYSE:NWS) site. That contrasts to the overwhelmingly gushing praise that Time Warner's trilogy had received. With more books giving Disney a rich pipeline here to tap over the next few years, it's no wonder why it's willing to tie this to a wing -- and a prayer.

Time Warner is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. Service Master is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz isn't likely to rush out to catch this one at the local multiplex over the weekend though he does plan on seeing it later this month. He owns shares of Disney. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.