Skip to comments.Christians keep Hollywood profitable.
Posted on 12/10/2005 4:37:25 AM PST by Aussie Dasher
Thats what Barbara Nicolosi, who teaches Christians the art of screenwriting, told Godspy, an online magazine, in a recent interview.
A Christian project saved the global box office from 2001 to 2003 with Tolkiens trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. Then another Christian project, The Passion of the Christ, saved the global cineplexes in 2004. And yet another Christian story is going to save the entertainment industry this year with C.S. Lewis The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Thats the movie that opens Dec. 9 and is based on the novel by Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, the 20th-century Anglican author who brought many people into the Catholic Church, though he never joined them.
Nicolosi is right, but theres more: Christian audiences have always proved Hollywoods most lucrative.
Look at the highest grossing films of all time (adjusted for inflation).Three of the top 10 have Catholic themes: The Sound of Music, The Ten Commandments and The Exorcist. Half of the top 10 are family films.
The list of the top 100 is also full of surprises. Ben Hur comes in ahead of huge blockbusters like Return of the Jedi and Jurassic Park. The Bells of St. Marys beats Return of the King and Spider-Man 2. And the amount of money taken in by The Passion of the Christ beats the legendary success of Revenge of the Sith, Harry Potter and the first two Lord of the Rings movies.
With that kind of record, Catholics ask, why doesnt Hollywood make more movies for us? But thats a little like asking, If books by saints sell so well, why dont more authors become saints? The better question is: Why dont Catholics make more movies for Hollywood?
After all, communicating about God through art is a Catholic specialty. Even more than other Christians, Catholics appreciate the value of sounds, sights and smells to teach spiritual lessons. The Church uses images, stories and significant actions to convey spiritual realities. So do artists.
It should be no surprise that, in the golden years of Hollywood, Catholic filmmakers like John Ford, Frank Capra, Fred Zinnemann and others dominated the new art form.
What happened after that? Some remained, but as dissenting Catholics. Others turned against the Church angrily and criticized it. In many cases, believers were squeezed out by an insular Hollywood culture. But sins of omission probably played the biggest role in leaving Hollywood bereft of Catholic influence.
After all, to end up with a Catholic artist whose work draws power from a sacramental worldview, you need to start out with a Catholic who has been told what the sacraments are in the first place. Polls suggest that, for the past two decades, the Church hasnt done a very good job of catechizing.
Thus, movies, like the other arts, are another casualty of the Churchs failure to catechize Catholics in the 1960s and 70s. But that may be changing.
The pontificate of Pope John Paul II brought about a seismic shift in the Church. Now, a seismic shift isnt an earthquake its a shift deep down in the earth that starts inevitable changes that arent obvious until later. By teaching courageously and inspiring a youth movement, John Paul quietly but surely changed the direction of the Church at its most fundamental level.
After the long pontificate of John Paul, yesterdays energetic dissenters are out of energy, and the catechism teachers who were too embarrassed to catechize are more likely to be replaced by World Youth Day veterans excited by the faith.
And as young people are slowly becoming catechized again, they are growing up in a new cultural environment. Our children met Eucharistic adoration proponent J.R.R. Tolkien because hes a top draw at the theater. They associate Mel Gibson with Jesus Christ and the cross, not Mad Max and Lethal Weapon. For our children, an allegory about Christ is the movie sensation of this winter.
Yes, these improvements in catechesis and in the culture are small, incremental changes now. But if the number of Catholics who know their faith and see it validated by the culture keeps growing incrementally, it will one day hit a critical mass and begin growing exponentially.
We might be surprised to find that the seismic changes started by Pope John Paul II will move mountains in our lifetime.
Today, Christians are saving Hollywood at the box office. Tomorrow, movie theaters might just be one more place Christians save the culture.
Rome was worth saving & that was worse than Hollywood.
Yes. Alternative media venues are in the wings but they need financial backing and outlets. Give it time...
Blast From The Past was a cute movie, with Brendan Frazier (I think that's his name) and Alicia Silverstone.
Thanks for your list.
Tolkien was deeply Christian, and a member of the Inkling's along with C S Lewis. While Lewis intended to write an allegory with his Narnia series, Tolkien's aim with the Lord of the Rings was to write a heroic myth for England. So TLOTR is not specifically Christian
Having said that, Tolkien's faith can be seen throughout his books. The main characters all exhibit Christ like self sacrifice for others, evil is fought at great cost, there is no compromise with evil, etc. His book the Silmarillion with the creation story for Middle Earth is a little more obviously Christian ( or at least theistic)
If you look at the "Devil" movies like "Rosemary's Baby", "Exorcist", "Devil's Advocate", "Damien", or any of the Grade-B ones on the 70's one thing strikes you about them. God is completely and totally out to lunch. He is no help at all. The humans are completely on their own. In fact, religion is reduced to sorcery with crosses and holy water as magical talismans and prayer as spells.
But let's add to this list of Catholic inspired movies. What about the Irwin Allen disaster movies ? Where the prophet prophesies doom and calls upon the people to follow him to salvation and they angrily refuse and immediately thereafter are striken dead for their sin ? Like the people in the ballroom of the Poseidon who angrily refused to follow Gene Hackman because "help is on the way". And drowned like rats in a rain barrel minutes afterward.
Constantine was a little theologically muddled, but the final message is that God forgives...
It's become a tautology: you want to get into film, you have to go to Hollywood. Why? Because that's where all the film people are. Surely conservatives have demonstrated they have the clout to support an alternative.
The films of yesteryear may have had sexual content,
but they did not show nudity or people in bed together.
They left it up to the imagination.
And if you add the Irwin Allen disaster movies with their Jeremiah themes, which were practically the only reliable money makers Hollywood had when it was losing money on hippie movies and overblown musicals, you get an even bigger total.
In Irwin Allen movies the disaster is always caused by human pride and sin. The Poseidon sank because the bean counters stinted on the cost of ballast and the corporate weasal insisted on overruling the captain. The towering inferno was a monument to the pride of its builders, like the Tower of Babel (get it ? tower ?).
Lord of the Rings is an epic tale of Good and Evil. The Good figures -- a wizard, some elves, a handful of men, and especially two "halflings" -- benefit from an occasional supernatural phenomenon. The forces of Evil -- mutant creatures, a vain wizard, corrupted kings of men, and a looming shadow of Ultimate Doom -- have their share of magical powers too.
But the conflict is between innocence, faith, and love versus treachery, tyranny, and lust for power. The Good Guys win.
Is that about witchcraft?
Why do people insist on trying to retrain these stubborn behemoths?
Why not look at this as an opportunity for Catholic/Christian filmmakers to form independent companies? If the support and the audience is there in such quantity, there should be no trouble finding all the necessary ingredients to give Hollywood a run for its money.
Kids would go to the movies and learned manners, ethics, honesty and other wonderful traits by watching. They learned that right triumphs over evil.
Today, kids see that evil is everywhere and that the bad guy has "redeeming qualities" and end up with the audience rooting for a guy with no values, a filthy mouth, and morals of an ally cat.