Christian revival and spiritual renewal have come to Hollywood.
Since 1993, Movieguide? has been analyzing the box office totals of all the major movies and revealing what we’ve found to top studio executives and celebrities in Hollywood at our Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry.
To our surprise, and God’s great glory, we discovered that family-friendly movies and movies with positive Christian content make the most money, on average, of any other kind of movie. And, they make a ton more money than the worst movies, the ones filled with graphic violence, explicit sex and nudity, sexual perversion, and false, anti-Christian worldviews, including those that promote atheism, paganism and hatred of all things dealing with Jesus.
For years, we were the only Christian group telling Hollywood decision makers about this Good News. In recent years, other family and Christian groups have taken up the drumbeat.
Because of our early efforts, however, the tide began to shift in 1999, when 40 movies had strong, positive Christian content. Titles as widely different as “The Green Mile,” “The Straight Story,” “Runaway Bride,” “Toy Story 2,” and “The Winslow Boy” contained firm nods to Christianity and Christian virtues, often in very explicit ways.
Since then, Hollywood has been averaging about 33 movies with strong positive Christian content each year, often averaging well over $60 million at the box office.
Then, of course, came another watershed year in 2004. That was the year Mel Gibson released “The Passion of the Christ,” and, with help from such movies as “The Incredibles,” “Spider-Man 2,” “Ladder 49” and “Woman, Thou Art Loosed,” the strongest Christian movies averaged an unprecedented $106 million at the box office.
Well, 2006 has turned out to be another watershed year, the biggest yet.
Twentieth Century Fox announced plans to release 12 faith-based movies a year and has already released its first two, “Love’s Abiding Joy” and “One Night with the King.” Sony Provident plans several faith-based movies in the next 12 months. (It released “The Second Chance” in January 2006.) Even little Maverick Spirit plans a dozen spiritually oriented films a year.
Last fall, the Walt Disney Company’s new president of production, Oren Aviv, announced that Disney plans to cut the production of R-rated movies and change its focus toward more family-oriented, faith-based movies. This policy change reflects the desires of many of our friends at Disney at the highest levels.
Finally, this holiday season, not only is there strong and positive Christian content in movies like “We Are Marshall, “Rocky Balboa” and “D?j? Vu,” but New Line Cinema released “The Nativity Story,” a compelling, inspiring and theologically sound re-telling of Matthew and Luke’s accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
In fact, for 2006, we count nearly 50 movies with strong, positive Christian content. In addition to the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday movies mentioned above, they include such blockbusters as “Superman Returns,” “Cars” and “Mission Impossible III” and more modest hits like “World Trade Center,” “Last Holiday” and “Glory Road.”
Now, if only the Hollywood studios can really throw their creative and monetary weight behind such projects as “The Nativity Story,” “One Night with the King” and “Facing the Giants” by hiring big directors like Mel Gibson and big movie stars like Tom Cruise, perhaps moviegoers will become even more excited about movies with overt Christian content. After all, look at what Mel Gibson’s faith in his blockbuster, “The Passion of the Christ,” produced. In “The Passion,” Mel put his money where his mouth was, and it paid off for him – big time. Now, he can make the other kinds of movies that he wants to make, in spite of his recent troubles with the bottle.
Movieguide?, we will keep encouraging Hollywood to make more and more Christian-friendly movies, and better and better ones. Our hope for the future is that not only Hollywood, but all Christians, will embrace this vision of ours. The well-being of future generations depends on this.
After all, according to a recent study by the Barna Group, entertainment is the favorite activity of young people, by far. Attending church services and reading the Bible are comparatively way down on the list. In fact, statistics from the Motion Picture Association of America and the American Pediatrics Association show that, by the time he or she is 17, the average child will have spent more than 60,000 hours with the mass media, but only 11,000 hours in school, 2,000 with their parents, and 900 hours in church, if they regularly go once a week.
As the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:33, “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Hollywood cannot afford to ignore the 142 million people who go to church every week. Neither can Christians afford to ignore the influence that Hollywood has on our children and grandchildren, and on the society in which they live.
This is a battle we cannot afford to lose, and Movieguide? prays that more people in the Body of Christ will support our vision and join the fray.
Only God knows what the future of Christian movies in Hollywood will be, but please don’t listen to the naysayers. Such people will perish because they lack vision (Proverbs 29:18).
Movieguide? and its supporters are indeed making a difference, but we have only begun the fight. Therefore, we urge the Body of Believers, “Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10) and “Put on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11), so that we can continue to take our stand in Hollywood “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).
To God be the glory to the honor of His Holy Name – Jesus Christ!
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Ted Baehr and Tom Snyder are founder and editor, respectively, of “Movieguide?: The Family Guide to Movies & Entertainment.”