The Passion of the Christ: Phillippe Antonello
Gary Susman
November 22, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

Following the unorthodox marketing campaign that helped make The Passion of the Christ a box office success of biblical proportions, Mel Gibson is promising a similarly unusual campaign to earn the film some Academy Awards. Just as Gibson’s Icon Productions bypassed the media and went directly to potential audiences (church groups, religious leaders) to market its movie, Icon’s Oscar drive will avoid television and print ads altogether. ”This film should be judged on its artistic merit, not on who spends more money for advertising,” Gibson’s Icon partner Bruce Davey said in a statement. ”That’s really what the Academy was meant to be and to celebrate.”

Of course, even such a de-escalation of contentious Oscar tactics is still something of a competitive move, a gauntlet thrown down to other contenders. ”Every studio has wanted to do this and none of them has had the guts to do it,” Gibson publicist Alan Nierob told E! Online. ”It’s basically about bringing it back to what the Academy’s been talking about for many years now — taking out the competitive nature of the Oscar campaigns and getting back to… that camaraderie feeling that the Academy envisioned initially.”

Not that Passion won’t be campaigning at all. Like every other studio, Icon will still schedule screenings for Oscar voters and send out thousands of DVDs to Academy members and critics groups. Still, Icon isn’t seeking Oscar glory in order to boost the movie’s box office take; having earned $625 million worldwide in ticket sales and millions more on DVD, Passion doesn’t need Oscar’s help.

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