CNSNews.com has moved from being the PR shop for Judicial Watch to movie promotion. Specifically, the upcoming remake of "Ben-Hur."
Now, Newsmax had already been promoting the film (while forgetting that it had been made into movies before the 1959 epic version), while noting that the film's producers "have been screening the movie for influential Christian leaders" to try and counter the negative buzz that had been surrounding the film.
One of those was the Media Rsearch Center's Brent Bozell, who declared in an Aug. 4 tweet: "I've previewed the remake of Ben-Hur. It is AMAZING. August 19. A definite must-see." He followed that with another tweet saying basically the same thing: "Encouraging everyone I know to check out the remake August 19. I went to a screening last week. Fantastic!"
Apparently, those tweets were the marching orders for the MRC to plug the film. On Aug. 8, the Twitter accounts of CNS, NewsBusters, MRCTV, MRC Culture, the MRC's Business and Media account and the main MRC account all sent out the exact same message: "A must see film! Check out the new Ben Hur movie," accompanied by a link to the film's trailer.
CNS, which parades as the "news" division of the MRC, is takingthe whole promo thing to the next level. An Aug. 15 article by Mark Judge dutifully transcribes the producers' praise of their own film:
This is not you grandfather’s "Ben-Hur."
That’s the message from Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, the producers of “Ben-Hur,” a new version of the 1959 film classic. Both movies are based on the 1880 novel by Lew Wallace.
“It was a great movie in ’59,” Burnett told CNSNews.com in a recent interview, “and it’s about time to update 55 years later. We reimagined changes from the original film where instead of a movie about revenge this movie is about reconciliation and forgiveness - and it still has a huge chariot race scene and a sea battle scene. So it provides all the values that theatergoers are expecting. In it Judah Ben-Hur encounters Jesus, and those encounters give him the understanding to forgive and teach him how to reconcile rather than seek revenge.”
Judge shills further in an Aug. 17 article, hammering home the film's religious content:
In a recent interview with the Christian Post, Jack Huston, star of the new film “Ben-Hur,” talked about the power of a particular scene in the film. In it, Ben-Hur, a Jew living in Jerusalem in 33 A.D., witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Prior to witnessing Christ, Ben-Hur had been in a years-long bloody feud with his brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), a Roman soldier.
“That was very emotional actually,” Huston told Jeannie Law about the scene. “The actual act is very effective, the crucifixion that is followed by forgiveness, everyone was affected up there on that mountain.”
Needless to say, Judge had no interest in doing factual reporting pointing out the film's continued bad buzz. Variety reports that "The $100 million Biblical epic is battling devastating pre-release tracking that suggests the story of a prince who is betrayed by a Roman nobleman may be one of the year’s most painful flops," with a projected opening weekend take between $10 million and $20 million despite a wide release. Variety also noted how the film is being heavily promoted to faith-based audiences and that the makers "believe that the film and its story of redemption will be able to draw faith-based crowds, who may not be getting polled by tracking services."
UPDATE: Looks like the rest of the MRC is in full promotion mode for the film as well. An Aug. 17 item by Katie Yoder is basically an expanded version of Judge's CNS article on how the film's actors were "changed" by the shooting of the crucifixion scene.
Which brings up the question: Is the MRC getting paid for its fawning promotion of the film?