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Christians keep Hollywood profitable.
National Catholic Register ^ | 10 December 2005 | the Editors, National Catholic Register

Posted on 12/10/2005 4:37:25 AM PST by Aussie Dasher

That’s 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 Tolkien’s 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.”

That’s 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 there’s more: Christian audiences have always proved Hollywood’s 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. Mary’s 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 doesn’t Hollywood make more movies for us? But that’s a little like asking, “If books by saints sell so well, why don’t more authors become saints?” The better question is: Why don’t 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 hasn’t done a very good job of catechizing.

Thus, movies, like the other arts, are another casualty of the Church’s 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 isn’t an earthquake — it’s a shift deep down in the earth that starts inevitable changes that aren’t 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, yesterday’s 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 he’s 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.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: christianity; christians; hollywood; lotr; movies; narnia; thepassion
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To: Sam the Sham
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.

I've noticed that too. In fact, even the trappings of religion don't work anymore. How many vampire movies have you seen in which the villain is shown a cross and simply slaps it away? Or when he actually enters a church and commits his foul deeds before the altar?

Not only do such portrayals reduce religion to a pathetic, ineffective institution, they belie the entire myth. Vampires are soulless; that's why they have no reflections in a mirror. The Cross is a reminder to them of their utter damnation: to wander the earth eternally, forced to find their sustenance in the lifeblood of others, yet to no ultimate end. Since they are not really alive (they are the Undead), they can never really die. Yet since they are soulless, they can never really live.

They are an abomination before God, and He will not suffer their presence. Nor can they tolerate His, in any form. The notion that one could ever enter sacred ground is absurd.

41 posted on 12/10/2005 7:06:59 AM PST by IronJack
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To: Prophet in the wilderness
Is Hollywood a lost cause, and not worth saving?....... yup... Always has

Hollywood did the Country proud during WWII. But, alas, not since.

42 posted on 12/10/2005 7:13:51 AM PST by ncountylee (Dead terrorists smell like victory)
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To: IronJack; aligncare

I once saw a message to Ebert where someone wondered why in vampire or Satan movies the priest was always Catholic or Orthodox. Well, if you are going up against Evil you want holy water and talismans and crosses and rosaries. You want real firepower. I'd like to see a vampire movie where the humans turn to the priest and discover with horror that he is just a Unitarian Universalist.


43 posted on 12/10/2005 7:27:58 AM PST by Sam the Sham (A conservative party tough on illegal immigration could carry California in 2008)
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To: patriciaruth

Coit tower? ;-)


44 posted on 12/10/2005 7:30:47 AM PST by Frank T
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To: gedeon3
I have never seen lord of the rings; I always believed it has witchcraft, but here they say it has a Christian message? Can somebody tell me if this is the truth?

Let the Professor speak for himself:

Replying to Father Robert Murray, who read Lord of the Rings before publication and was left with "a strong sense of 'a positive compatibility with the order of Grace,'" and compared Galadriel to the Virgin Mary:

I think I know exactly what you mean by the order of Grace; and of course by your references to Our Lady, upon which all my own small perception of beauty both in majesty and simplicity is founded. The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults and practices, in the imaginary world.

There are several more statements to the same effect in The Letters of JRR Tolkien, from which I drew my example, as well as Tolkien's opinions on the Church and some of his theology. (Not to mention his priceless reply to the Nazis when asked if he had any Jewish blood!)

As for witchcraft, well, there is a Witch-king. Which King? The King of Angmar. bada-boom

45 posted on 12/10/2005 7:32:22 AM PST by Caesar Soze
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To: Sam the Sham
I'd like to see a vampire movie where the humans turn to the priest and discover with horror that he is just a Unitarian Universalist.

LOL! It would be like being on the front lines when your foxhole buddy is armed with spitwads. I don't think the Undead will succumb to group hugs.

46 posted on 12/10/2005 7:33:58 AM PST by IronJack
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To: Sam the Sham
...I'd like to see a vampire movie where the humans turn to the priest and discover with horror that he is just a Unitarian Universalist.

...now, that's funny!

47 posted on 12/10/2005 7:57:58 AM PST by aligncare (Wasted my time...got my Journalism degree)
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To: Aussie Dasher

bump


48 posted on 12/10/2005 8:00:57 AM PST by VOA
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To: Aussie Dasher
Is Hollywood a lost cause, and not worth saving?

Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. Of course, there is tons of darkness out there...

49 posted on 12/10/2005 8:02:40 AM PST by NeoCaveman (Ken Blackwell for Governor, Ohio 2006)
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To: McGavin999
Thanks for expressing well, what I have been struggling to say on this thread.

Yes, yes, yes...those were the good old days. But, we've crossed so many lines now that we may not ever be able to return.

My heart aches for that lost America.

50 posted on 12/10/2005 8:28:49 AM PST by aligncare (Wasted my time...got my Journalism degree)
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To: IronJack
Surely there's got to be some other region in the country where a film industry could get off the ground and shed the decadent baggage of the California fairyland. 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.

I wish Mel Gibson would use his millions to build a film studio near Branson. Right in the heartland, where the conservative alternative to smutty Vegas live acts are already flourishing.

51 posted on 12/10/2005 9:58:25 AM PST by Albion Wilde ((America will not run, and we will not forget our responsibilities. George W. Bush))
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To: Aussie Dasher

She might be right: I am an atheist and I haven't been to a movie theater for 25+ years. And I do not rent their crap on video, either, and [on purpose] do not have a TV. So if I am in any way indicative, it would be the believers' money that keeps the Hollywood types on the hog.


52 posted on 12/10/2005 10:04:15 AM PST by GSlob
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To: Aussie Dasher
Christians keep Hollywood profitable.

Many Christians pretty much have the 'entertain me' jones...like everyone else...unfortunately.

53 posted on 12/10/2005 10:15:01 AM PST by joesnuffy (A camel once bit my sister-we knew just what to do- gather large rocks & squash her-Mullet Ho'mar)
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To: Albion Wilde
I wish Mel Gibson would use his millions to build a film studio near Branson.

I'm sure the State of Missouri would do back-flips to accommodate such a venture.

54 posted on 12/10/2005 10:35:53 AM PST by IronJack
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To: IronJack

The was an attempt to start a movie studio in Utah. It failed miserably.

Movie people are knowledge workers. Knowledge workers move from job to job in the same industry. The is why knowledge firms tend to concentrate. If you want a career in financial services you have to live in and around the New York metro area. You know that if you want to find a better job in another bank or brokerage house you don't have to relocate. And banks and brokerage houses know they have a large skill base to draw on. If you want to work in cutting edge computer design you have to live in a Silicon Valley area. If you want to work in fashion you have to go to New York or Paris or LA.

You could save a ton of money by moving a knowledge firm to the boondocks, but where would you find your employees ? And if your employees would be stuck there because you are their only possible employer. If you want to make the connections that will get your career off the ground and keep you working steadily you have to be where the movers and shakers are.

No. The film industry has to stay where the agents and producers and film crews and casting directors and writers are concentrated.


55 posted on 12/10/2005 10:55:29 AM PST by Sam the Sham (A conservative party tough on illegal immigration could carry California in 2008)
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To: Sam the Sham
where would you find your employees ?

Anywhere? If you wanted to get into the stale Hollywood film community, then you'd stay in Hollywood. But if you wanted to be able to express yourself and do real creative work without some studio head guiding your hand, you'd go where independent thought flourished.

And if your employees would be stuck there because you are their only possible employer.

Only if nobody follows suit and locates where you did. That wasn't true in Hollywood, why would it be true somewhere new?

If you want to make the connections that will get your career off the ground and keep you working steadily you have to be where the movers and shakers are.

And why does that have to be in Hollywood? Those "movers and shakers" have proven repeatedly that they suck.

There's no need to continue this tautology. Hollywood is not sacred ground. Its product could come from any pipe in any reasonably sized cesspool. And good movies can come from Cottonwood as easily as Hollywood -- more easily in fact, since a new movie community has no shameful legacy to carry forward.

56 posted on 12/10/2005 11:08:20 AM PST by IronJack
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To: IronJack

You have missed it completely.

Motion pictures and architecture are artistic mediums where....
1. The artist cannot afford the price of his output. No writer can afford to finance a professional film out of his own pocket so the money men have to get involved. And then again the film must be distributed and marketed so thinking you can just go off to Branson and make a movie without a "studio head" makes no sense. Mel Gibson had to have Fox distribute TPOTC.
2. The efforts of many highly skilled professionals are necessary. You need sound and light and editing and .... These people will stay where they can find regular work where the motion picture industry is concentrated. They cannot just work once or twice a year. So they are not going to go off to Branson.
3. The projects you get and the fan base you build depends on the hit projects you are in. It is in the interest of the best stars to work in the best projects and the best projects to improve their chances of success by having the best stars. A few flops and its dinner theater and Hollywood Squares. It's the difference between having clout (i.e., the money men will give you whatever you want) and being a washed up joke. The ingenue starlet has until 28 to become a star. And there are lots of pretty girls. So going off to the boondocks would be career suicide.


57 posted on 12/10/2005 11:35:24 AM PST by Sam the Sham (A conservative party tough on illegal immigration could carry California in 2008)
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