Mark Your Calendars _ 666 is Coming!

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c. 2006 Religion News Service

(UNDATED) Beware June 6, 2006: The apocalypse, the Antichrist, death metal and Ann Coulter will all be among us.

The numerical translation for this year’s June 6 bears an eerie resemblance to 666, an infamous digit known as the mark of the beast or Antichrist in the Book of Revelation.

Marketing campaigns, sensing a chance to boost profits and stir up buzz, have taken notice.

From a remake of the satanic horror film “The Omen” to conservative pundit Ann Coulter’s new book about “godless liberals,” from the latest edition of the Christian apocalyptic book series “Left Behind” to some new death metal albums, they’re all claiming 6/6/2006 as their own.

“It’s one big marketing ploy,” said Robert Thompson, professor of popular culture at Syracuse University. “It is so deliciously clever as to really kind of merit (people) talking about it.”

The eye-catching marketing campaign for 20th Century Fox’s remake of “The Omen” first grabbed the public’s attention about the date. Ominous posters and billboards featuring reading “6.6.06” started showing up this spring. The posters feature a variety of creepy slogans rolled out over several weeks: “The Signs Are All Around You,” “You Have Been Warned” and “Heed The Omen.”

All of the catchphrases actually were used when the original “Omen” came out in 1976, said Kevin Campbell, executive vice president of marketing and strategy for 20th Century Fox. But the film’s marketing campaign, and its unorthodox Tuesday release in order to make the 6/6/2006 date stick, is original.

“For the big summer movies … you become so conditioned to seeing the same kind of advertising,” Campbell said. “There’s nothing about the marketing of this movie that is typical.”

Tuesdays are often used for book and CD releases, but the June 6 release date this year lends irony to some new products.

Ann Coulter’s book “Godless: The Church of Liberalism,” is being released that day by Crown Forum. Coulter said in a Fox News interview last month the release date is her “little tribute to liberals.” Nevertheless, Crown Publisher Steve Ross said in a statement that June 6 was chosen before the book had a working title.

On the music side, David Lee Roth releases the cheekily named “Strummin’ With the Devil,” a bluegrass tribute to Van Halen. Death metal is also having a banner day, with the releases of albums like “Allegiance” by As Blood Runs Black and “The Stench of Redemption” by Deicide. And major death metal act Slayer will be out on its “Unholy Alliance Tour: Preaching to the Perverted,” playing in San Diego on the big date.

California is also the site of a major religious event that day, sponsored by The Church of Satan. The group is hosting a satanic high Mass at a sold-out Steve Allen Theater in Los Angeles. Members also will be soaking up death metal and noshing on sushi at the “Rockin’ 666 Eve” on June 5, sponsored by Chicago’s Radio Free Satan.

“We are simply taking advantage of this unique date which the public fears because of Christian mythology as promoted by Hollywood hypesters,” Church of Satan High Priest Peter H. Gilmore wrote in an e-mail.

He added, “Let’s all have a hell of a good time that day!”

(OPTIONAL TRIM FOLLOWS)

There’s even one group that is taking deliberate steps to avoid 06-06-06 _ expectant mothers. The Sunday Times in London reported in April that mothers-to-be have been gossiping about the potential due date on the Mother and Baby Web site. One woman was so concerned she booked a doctor’s appointment to ensure her baby won’t be born on that day. Some aren’t so worried, like a pair of mothers who said they would name their babies Damien and Regan, after the demonic children featured in “The Omen” and “The Exorcist.”

There is one June 6 event that claims it’s not like the others. The popular “Left Behind” series, a Christian collection of novels about the apocalypse distributed by Tyndale House Publishers, is using the date to release “The Rapture,” the series’ 15th installment.

“Left Behind” marketing manager Cheryl Kerwin said Tyndale had planned for several years to release an installment on that date, and said the release of “The Rapture” “will bring some light to the number.”

“The end times are a dark and scary time and the Antichrist is a bad person,” Kerwin said. “But this book actually brings some hope and light to an otherwise dark world.”

But Kerwin also acknowledged that Tyndale chose the date “as a way to have some fun … to create a hook to draw visitors to the stores and to create an event day.”

One Christian bookstore chain is doing just that. Through their catalogs, the California-based Parable Group is offering a special June 6 sale of old “Left Behind” paperbacks.

The price? $6.66 each.

Tim LaHaye, co-author of the “Left Behind” series, doesn’t think his readers will have a problem with the satanic sales price.

“Any time you get a solid paperback that’s been a best-selling paperback, and you get it for $6.66,” he said, “it’s a pretty good bargain.”

KRE/JL END LEVY

Editors: To obtain photos from `The Omen,’ the Church of Satan, `Left Behind’ and Coulter’s new book, go to the RNS Web site at https://religionnews.com. On the lower right, click on “photos,” then search by subject or slug.

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