Kevin Sorbo, host of the 19th Movieguide Awards Gala and recipient of Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance in Movies in 2010 for his role in “What If …”
LOS ANGELES – At this weekend’s 19th Annual Movieguide Awards Gala, stars strolled the red carpet and statuettes were awarded, but one aspect in particular set this event apart from typical Hollywood extravaganzas: Rather than longwinded speeches thanking their agents, the award winners expressed their gratitude, sometimes in tears, to God.
The Movieguide Awards Gala is an event designed to honor those films and filmmakers that present positive and faith-affirming messages as well as to demonstrate to Hollywood the inspiring power – and even profitability – of putting well-told, redemptive tales on the silver screen.
Among this year’s big winners were films like “Secretariat” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” as well as TV movies like “Christmas with a Capital C” and “Amish Grace.”
Jeff Holder, former head of ABC’s Saturday morning children’s TV schedule and now managing editor of Movieguide, explained what makes the Movieguide Awards so unique:
“The Gala is about the [spiritually inspiring and exemplary] film clips and the speeches,” Holder explained at an insider’s breakfast the morning after the event. “Many of the recipients give glory to God.
“What I really like about Movieguide is that we honor producers, directors, many of them Christians, quietly working behind the scenes and movies that may not make the Academy Awards,” he continued. “We’re honoring them because they do such redemptive work.”
Pat Boone and his wife, Shirley
Music and Hollywood icon Pat Boone stepped off the red carpet for just a moment to talk with WND about the significance and impact of the Movieguide awards over the years.
“I have been coming to these events for the past 15 years,” Boone said. “Producers, directors, writers – they’ll come here to get an award, and when they do, they see why they’re getting an award and the kind of things that we’re hungering for [in films]. Then they go back to their studios and they look for other projects that might merit an award for the same reason that they’ve gotten one, which is uplifting family, not denigrating the faith, not glamorizing degenerate behavior.
“And so it is a strong influence, and it’s not just condemning the bad, it’s awarding the good,” Boone said. “So I think it’s genius. I think it’s God.”
On stage to receive a “Teddy” award for directing the award-winning “What If,” Dallas Jenkins told the audience of nearly 500 gathered for the event that the awards ceremony is evidence of his company’s motto, that “it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Backstage, he explained further to WND: “I think Christians in America have been known more for complaining about Hollywood than doing anything about it, and there’s a Chinese proverb from thousands of years ago that says the obvious, that ‘it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness,’ so that’s really been the motto of our company.
“And the reason I got into the business was I grew up thinking, ‘Why are we so angry at Hollywood for doing what they want to do? Why can’t we do something about it?'” he continued. “That’s really the impetus for every movie we make.”
Sharif Atkins of television’s “ER”
Bailee Madison, Tanner Maguire of “Letters to God”
Eric Martslof, Nadia Bjorlin of “Days of Our Lives”
One of the films nominated for awards this year was “To Save a Life,” a story about teenage suicide that has literally been saving lives.
WND asked the film’s star, Randy Wayne, what it’s like to be part of a Hollywood project having such a positive impact.
“It’s something that’s hard to put into words, but it’s very powerful, and I get e-mails from fans all the time thanking me for doing a movie like ‘To Save a Life,'” Wayne said. “When I signed up for the movie, I didn’t think that would actually happen.”
Wayne also shared the stories of two e-mails he received from fans: “One was an atheist. He said that he loved the film, he loved the message, and he didn’t feel it was too preachy and he appreciates everything we did in it. Another one was from a kid who said he was ‘gay’ and he wasn’t a Christian and he watched the movie and he feels like it saved his life. Even though he didn’t think he was the target audience, he felt like it did target him, and he’s going to church now.”
Stars of “To Save a Life”: Deja Kreutzberg, Randy Wayne and Kim Hidalgo
In addition to honoring the films and filmmakers, the Movieguide Gala includes an annual report to the movie industry that includes the hard facts on comparative box office receipts between films with positive messages and/or values and those that disregard or denigrate those values.
Dr. Ted Baehr, founder of Movieguide and chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission, presents the report, which clearly shows filmmakers who take into account America’s nearly 160 million churchgoers find more success.
Dr. Ted Baehr
“What we’re giving you,” Baehr told the audience of filmmakers and executives, “is data to help you understand your audience.”
For example, according to Movieguide’s analysis, among 2010’s top films (those making more than $750,000 in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada), those that contained no obscenities or profanities averaged $50.44 million at the box office, while those with more than 25 instances of foul language averaged only $23.42 million, less than half their cleaner counterparts.
Comparing films’ sexual content, the numbers are even more stark: Movies with no sex averaged $55.44 million at the box office, while even light or implied sex dropped the numbers to $35.72 million, and the average take for films with extreme sexual content plummeted all the way to $15.92 million.
“This was especially clear in 2010,” said Baehr in a statement. “Movies with no foul language, sex, nudity or drug abuse averaged the most money at the theatrical box office in America and Canada, much more than movies with a lot of such offensive content.”
Movieguide also measured other forms of immorality, including lying, stealing, blackmail, extortion, greed, envy, jealousy and so forth, discovering that movies without these elements made more than four times more money than movies with extensive or extreme amounts.
“We have found similar results in practically all of our previous studies,” Dr. Baehr noted.
Demetria McKinney of “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”
Movieguide’s system of evaluating movies based on their themes, values and worldviews is so statistically backed, in fact, that Baehr has been able to predict the commercial success of films that other Hollywood analysts have missed, including box office “surprises” like 2009’s “The Blind Side” or this past year’s “Despicable Me” and “True Grit.”
The message seems to be having an impact on Hollywood’s output.
Baehr reports that in 1985 only 1 percent of films made by Hollywood contained “positive, redemptive content,” according to Movieguide’s grading scale.
But then Movieguide was launched and the awards began. The annual report to the industry began to open Hollywood executives’ eyes to the box office reality that faith- and family-friendly films score bigger than their seedier competitors.
Movieguide, more than just a film review ministry, also began a grassroots effort of training and encouraging film students, scriptwriters and moviemakers. It began explaining to Hollywood the merits and box office value of films that follow what Baehr calls the three keys to making great movies:
- Great stories, well told
- Have a positive worldview
- Are spiritually inspiring, featuring tales of virtue and redemption
No doubt the commercial success of movies like “The Passion of the Christ,” film franchises like the “Toy Story” and “Chronicles of Narnia” films, as well as unexpected hits like “The Blind Side” have also caught the attention of Hollywood’s powerful people.
Now, Movieguide reported at this weekend’s gala, that the number of “positive, redemptive” films has grown to 60 percent of Hollywood’s output. Baehr said when he saw that number hit 50 percent in recent years, that was as far as he thought it could go. To see 60 percent?
“This is a gift of God,” he said.
The silver screen and TV movies nominated this year include the following, with the winning films highlighted in bold.
Kristy Swanson of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” fame, star of “What If …”
For the Epiphany Prize, given to the most inspiring movie of the year, a film that “greatly increases man’s love or understanding of God”:
- “The Book of Eli,” Warner Brothers
- “Get Low,” Sony Pictures Classics
- “Letters to God,” Vivendi Entertainment
- “The Secret of Kells,” GKIDs Inc.
- “To Save a Life,” Samuel Goldwyn Films
- “What If …,” PureFlix Entertainment
- “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader,” 20th Century Fox
For the Epiphany Prize, given to the most inspiring TV movie of the year:
- “Christmas with a Capital C,” Gospel Music Channel
- “Ice Dreams,” The Hallmark Channel
- “November Christmas,” Hallmark Hall of Fame
- “The Way Home,” Gospel Music Channel
- “When Love is Not Enough: The Lois Wilson Story,” Hallmark Hall of Fame
- “Amish Grace,” telecast on Lifetime Television
For the award given to the Best Movie for Families:
- “Toy Story 3”
- “Despicable Me”
- “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
- “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole”
- “Shrek Forever After”
- “What If …”
- “How to Train Your Dragon”
- “Letters to God”
Randall Wallace, director of “Secretariat”
For the award given to the Best Movie for Mature Audiences:
- “The Book of Eli”
- “The King’s Speech”
- “True Grit”
- “Letters to Juliet”
- “Mao’s Last Dancer”
- “Iron Man 2”
- “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”
- “Alice in Wonderland”
- “Get Low”
Other winners included the following:
- The Faith and Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values in 2010, winner for movies: “Mao’s Last Dancer”
- The Faith and Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values in 2010, winner for television: “Christmas with a Capital C”
- The Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance in Movies in 2010: Kevin Sorbo for “What If …”
- The Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance in Television in 2010: Madison Mason from “Amish Grace”
- The $50,000 Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays by First-Time and Beginning Screenwriters: Justin Eade of Nelson, New Zealand, for “Blue Water Metal”
Helmut Schleppi, director of the award-winning “Christmas with a Capital C,” a television movie about a town’s battle to save its public-square Nativity scene, but more importantly, about saving the Christ-following spirit of the holiday, expressed words on stage that are a testimony to the work of Movieguide and other Christians in Hollywood:
“I’m from Holland, where this movie would never even have been made, let alone win a prize,” Schleppi said. “You should be proud of your country.”
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