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More than 50 years ago, Clive Staples Lewis, an Oxford University professor, began publishing his series of fantasy books for children.

Collectively called “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the books became instant best sellers and were soon Lewis’ best-known work.

In the stories, a Christ-like figure, Aslan the lion, guides four English school children through adventures. There are grand battles, talking animals and evil magic.

Now Disney Pictures and Walden Media have brought the second book in the series, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” to the screen. Business Week magazine estimates it to be a $200 million effort to spawn a multi-year franchise, eventually including all seven books.

Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., has arranged a private screening of the movie in its 20,000-seat auditorium. More than 150 churches nationwide will invite their communities to special pre-screenings.

On a smaller scale, Senior Pastor Bob DeGray of Friendswood’s Trinity Fellowship Church has reserved a block of 200 tickets for a preview showing for his congregation, their neighbors and friends Thursday.

“I have loved the Narnia books since the first time I read them because I saw the merging of a fantasy world with the story of my faith,” DeGray said.

DeGray was also impressed by “The Lord of the Rings” films.

When he heard that Lewis’ most popular “Narnia” book was being made into a film using some of the same technology used for “Rings,” he got excited.

“All of this led me to wonder whether the church could be involved in the release of the movie,” he said.