A great battle has begun -- not for hearts, minds and souls, but for pocketbooks.
After taking a pass on the film rights to J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
-- a trilogy of films that each went on to earn more than $300 million at the U.S. box office alone -- Walt Disney Pictures is taking a $150 million dollar gamble on another work of fantasy, C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia
. Disney's film adaptation of the second volume of Narnia tales (there are seven in all), "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" opens nationwide on Friday.
Film industry observers say it's a gamble that's going to pay off. "Without question, this is going to be one of the biggest movies of the holiday season," says Paul Degarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, a company that tracks the box office. "It's mentioned in the same breath as 'Harry Potter' and 'King Kong' -- it's that big."