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The Big (Show) Biz of Scientology

Monday, 28 Jan 2008 | 1:47 PM ET
CNBC.com

If you're an entertainment buff, you can't miss the significant presence of Scientology.

Over the past few weeks, dozens of people have e-mailed me links to Tom Cruise's Scientology rant -- more accurately, it's his acceptance of a Scientology award -- and it's so bizarre: he talks about "orks" and "SPs" as comfortably as if he's talking about cats and dogs.

And just this week an "unauthorized" Tom Cruise biography (published Jan 15) hit No. 1 on Amazon.com and The New York Times best seller list.

The author asserts that Cruise is second in command at the Church of Scientology and that the religion was the cause of Tom and Nicole Kidman's breakup (not the first time I've heard that). Cruise has threatened a $100 million lawsuit against the author and book's publisher, and says that he doesn't have a place in the church's heirarchy. True, false, I think the whole thing is fascinating.

I'm not the only one: a sign of just how popular this Scientology rant is, it's gotten "Youtubed" -- i.e., mocked, re-cut, and reenacted by an incredibly funny Jerry O'Connell. It's hysterical.

But here's the really interesting thing: More and more big celebrities are coming out of the Scientology closet, revealing themselves to be ardent supporters of L. Ron Hubbard's belief system.

Kirstie Alley is quoted saying, "Scientology saved her life." But it isn't just B-listers who hawking for Jenny Craig -- there are plenty of big international movie stars, like Cruise, under Scientology's spell.

The latest? Will Smith-- arguably one of the biggest international box office draw. He used to be topped by Tom Cruise, but now that Cruise's star has fallen, tarnished by the fireworks that people associate with his Scientology beliefs (jumping on couches, slamming Brooke Shields, etc.), Smith is bigger.

Which raises the question: how many hundreds of millions does Smith risk giving up if he goes down this Scientology path? Will his star fall as well? And what I'd really like to know is, how many millions and millions of dollars does Scientology get from Hollywood stars? If you have any thoughts on this one email me!

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.