Monday, September 26, 2005

Tin-Eared Hollywood Tries To Woo Christians

Apparently the Walt Disney Company thinks if they set up a promo screening for church groups, they might get a break on criticism. Currently they are "marketing 'The Greatest Game Ever Played' to faith-based groups even though the film, about Francis Ouimet's improbable win in the 1913 U.S. Open, isn't overtly religious. 'Its themes are about family, about not giving up on your dreams, courage,' said Dennis Rice, head of publicity at the Walt Disney Studios. 'They are very secular virtues, but they also could potentially be Christian virtues.'"
Let's be charitable and say this man is obviously not a churchgoer. All of these "virtues" are seen in the Bible, so they in fact are Christian virtues, the movie just isn't a "Christian movie."
Other studios are joining the trend. "The approach reflects the next step in Hollywood's attempt to capitalize on the business lessons of 'The Passion of the Christ,' (which they still misunderstand) a surprising blockbuster last year thanks to unprecedented marketing and mobilization in churches. With Congress cracking down on indecency in television, video games and films, there's a political dimension as well." Of course. Hollywood wants to continue to sell "edgy" crap, which they think brings out the moviegoers, and they think that tactics such as these will keep Congress off their backs. Not only that, although many blockbusters do well, Hollywood reports that ticket sales are constantly going down.
Money being the root of all actions, the studios have decided to market to audiences they no longer reach. "Targeted marketing of this kind happens only if a studio expects to add $25 million to $50 million to the box office gross and sell perhaps an extra 5 million DVDs, according to Harold Vogel, who heads the New York investment firm Vogel Capital Management." They are using the model of "The Passion of The Christ," because "success was largely attributed to intensive marketing within churches, which reserved entire theaters for opening day while congregants invited neighbors who skip church to watch the movie." The studios now have put efforts into reaching these previously ignored audiences. "Twentieth Century Fox, which distributed the video of 'The Passion,' recently launched a Web site ( to target Christian and family-based films directly to a religious audience. The site includes a 'church resources' link, which lists several movies and includes written guidance suggesting Bible verses to discuss in conjunction with scenes from the films.
Now that the falling ticket sales have spurred Hollywood to do something, they typically go at it heavy handed. Rather arrogant to assume Fox knows what Bible verses are appropriate for discussion. However it appears that another organization prepares the study guides. Their website is under construction so there is no way to tell what standing they have to produce the guides. What is their doctrinal understanding? What tradition do they come from? These are important questions that need to be answered before using any of the resources they offer. Still, the film industry has finally recognized that there is an audience for good, family oriented fare and. although they are trying to market to it out of a desire for money, at least it's now getting some attention. More attention than their precious young adult market deserves.