Dr. Ted Baehr is the founder and publisher of MOVIEGUIDE, chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, and a well-known movie critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit. He also is the author of several books, including "The Culture-Wise Family" with legendary entertainer Pat Boone. For more information, please call 800-899-6684 or go to the MOVIEGUIDE website.More ↓Less ↑
Hollywood has been abuzz lately with the big news that more faith-based movies like “The Passion of the Christ” and “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” are on the way, but the reaction so far has been rather mixed.
Fox plans 12 family and/or faith-friendly movies a year. Sony Provident plans several faith-based movies in the next 12 months. Even little Maverick Spirit plans a dozen spiritually oriented films a year. Just during October alone, there are several faith and family films coming from both studios and faith-based distributors.
Many pundits – even Christian ones – have said, “Enough! We don’t need any more Christian movies, especially not more bad ones.” Others, however, have rushed to stand in line to support all of these movies, whatever their quality.
Some movie marketing companies also have complained that pastors will no longer come out to see their latest big Hollywood offerings. These pastors are not fools and must be respected. Trying to get them to support mediocre movies will burn them out.
Rather than move toward either of these extremes, we should exercise wisdom, knowledge and discernment. By doing so, we can choose the good and thereby encourage Hollywood not just to throw Christians the scraps, but to make quality movies with faith and values.
There are at least three fundamental components of a great movie.
First, it has to be a wonderful, terrific drama, or else few people will want to see it. As one of the most renowned screenwriting teachers, Robert McGee, says, writing a script is the most difficult art form, because it is so demanding. Unlike novels, which can go on and on and include plots, subplots, themes and sub-themes, or other art forms that can be wildly interpretive and unique, popular movies must tell a story well in a short period of time – 90 minutes to two and a half hours – to capture a broad audience.
The craft of screenwriting is well-known, but often ignored by Hollywood veterans as well as innocent “wannabe” Christian dramatists. Studies have shown that, on average, dramatic movies that fit the classical dramatic formula do much better at the box office. This does not mean that there are no exceptions, but the exceptions are few and far between.
The second fundamental element of a great movie is the moral virtues within a script. As our annual comprehensive box office analysis at MOVIEGUIDE? clearly proves year after year, the more a script adheres to a Judeo-Christian, biblical view of reality, the better the movie does, on average, at the box office.
Finally, the third element of a great movie is its spiritual quality. People want hope. They want redemption. They want a savior. Movies with these elements do better not just in Western countries but throughout the world.
Many of the new faith-based movies coming out from the major studios have very small budgets. This has raised concerns that these movies will be simply lackluster attempts to capture the Christian audience. These concerns have not been alleviated by the fact that some studios hire a rating service to endorse their faith-based movies, whatever the quality.
However, these movies could be terrific, even though they’re small budget. Those that are should be supported, and those that are not will not be supported. But, it is important not to develop a cynical, jaded attitude and paint them all with the same brush. Such is the case with the statement “we don’t need any more Christian movies.”
So, if Hollywood really wants to capitalize on the 142 million people who go to church every week, they must bring them movies that are well made, entertaining, morally sound and spiritually uplifting. It’s like the boy who cried wolf. If Christians and family audiences keep responding to the clarion call “Support your Christian movie!” and keep walking away disappointed, they’ll soon start ignoring the call.