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Conservative Christian billionaire gets into movie biz big time.(my title)
(Denver) Westword ^ | April 18, 02 | Bill Gallo

Posted on 04/18/2002 9:27:12 AM PDT by laureldrive

Holy Hollywood Billionaire Philip Anschutz is poised to become a PG-movie mogul.

BY BILL GALLO

DENVER WESTWORD

Armed with today's digital technology, any special-effects wiz in Hollywood can squeeze a camel through the eye of a needle. But can the movies get a rich man into heaven?

Philip Anschutz, Denver's favorite billionaire, may be hoping they can.

Last month, Anschutz signed an acquisition deal that will make him the largest movie-theater owner in the country: His new Regal Entertainment Group will have 561 theaters and 6,000 screens in 36 states. And on April 19, Joshua, the first movie from Anschutz's big-budget venture in movie production, Beverly Hills-based Crusader Entertainment, will open in fifty U.S. cities, including Denver. By May 3, it will be showing on 600 screens nationwide.

Adapted from an international bestseller by a Catholic priest named Joseph Girzone, Joshua chronicles the sudden appearance of a charismatic young carpenter in a small American Everytown and the miraculous effect he has on its citizens. This cinematic Second Coming was shot in Chicago and little East Dundee, Illinois, but the parable means to lift hearts everywhere. Released through a Crusader subsidiary called Epiphany Films, the production, which cost between $8 million and $9 million to make, is aimed squarely at Christian audiences and fallen-away moviegoers fed up with sex, drugs and violence.

For Anschutz, the 62-year-old churchgoing businessman who's made billions in oil and gas, railroads, telecommunications, pro sports and real estate, the movie business is a new opportunity not just to turn another profit, but to influence the tides of popular culture and public taste. As always, the media-shy mogul is not talking. But last week, his Hollywood partner and a minister-turned-movie-consultant on the Anschutz payroll shed some light on their mysterious friend's calculations and motives.

Formed two years ago, Crusader will soon begin making four to six movies a year, only one of them under the religiously oriented Epiphany banner. A two-year distribution deal with Paramount Pictures will ease the product into theaters. "The point to emphasize is that the company will make mainstream movies," says Howard Baldwin, a fifteen-year Hollywood veteran who is Anschutz's junior partner at Crusader. "Joshua has a spiritual element, and we don't apologize for its strong spiritual overtones, but our other movies will be more mainstream." On August 23, look for Children on Their Birthdays, adapted from a Truman Capote story. In early November, Swimming Upstream, starring Judy Davis and Geoffrey Rush -- a Chariots of Fire-style tale about rival brothers competing for Olympic glory.

A second Anschutz-financed company, New York-based Walden Films, has bought rights to The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis's seven-book series of spiritual fantasies for children. Bob Beltz, a former Littleton minister who once counted Anschutz as a member of his congregation at Cherry Hills Community Church, says Walden's Narnia movies will rival blockbusters such as the Harry Potter series and The Lord of the Rings trilogy in terms of production values and gargantuan budgets.

In light of that, Coloradans nostalgic for the glitz and glamour that former Denver oilman Marvin Davis brought to town in the 1970s and '80s, when he acquired Twentieth Century-Fox, may not have long to wait for a revival.

Just don't expect any dope, dirt or skin. Although his two colleagues say he's essentially a hands-off movie mogul, Anschutz wrote Crusader Entertainment's "mission statement" himself, and it mandates "inspirational, historical, sports and adventure films that offer compelling, positive messages to our audiences.... We will make only films that are G-rated, or, in some instances, PG or PG-13." Crusader wants to sign Jamie Foxx to star in Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Story (with a budget somewhere between $20 million and $30 million), and in September, the cameras roll on Sahara (price tag: around $90 million), the first of several epics to be filmed from Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt adventure series. But the seamier elements of those properties don't daunt Baldwin at all. For better or for worse, they will conform to Crusader's moral code -- and not just for reasons of personal belief.

"It takes a lot for people in [Hollywood] to get the message," Baldwin says, "but they're finally getting it. Audiences are changing. They're turning away from the unpleasantness they see every day on TV and on the street. They want to be entertained in a positive way. Last year, seventeen of the twenty biggest-grossing movies were rated G, PG or PG-13, but this is still an untapped market, at least in terms of consistency. There are a few movies every year -- The Rookie, Shrek, Lord of the Rings -- that are family-oriented, well-made and successful. But I think we can be cutting-edge in this market, because we are a company built to do it." The new Disney? Maybe.

Movieguide, a conservative reviewing magazine, recently reported to movie-industry executives that films "with a very strong Christian worldview" earned nearly twice as much in 2001 as movies it categorized as "humanist, pagan, Romantic, Communist, feminist, occult, homosexual or anti-patriotic." Beltz's own research tells him that 135 million Americans attend religious services regularly and that many of them have stopped going to the movies because "they're so alienated about what's available. All the major studies validate what our hunch about the attitudes of the moviegoing public was in the first place. Now we want to tap into that latent potential. We think the market is huge."

Apparently, so does Anschutz, who's got as much Goldwyn as God inside him. Illustration: He met future partner Baldwin, who's a part owner of the National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins, a few years ago at an NHL social event, and they became friendly. After screening the Baldwin-produced movie Mystery, Alaska, a comic fantasy about a ragtag pond hockey team that plays a big game against the New York Rangers, Anschutz had one pointed observation, Baldwin recalls. "'Why was it an 'R'?' he asked, and he was absolutely right," Baldwin says. "We had a strong, inspirational story, a great director. We had sharp comedy. We even had Russell Crowe, who was hot. But the four-letter words hurt us at the box office. We shot ourselves in the foot by releasing an 'R' movie."

Therein lay the seeds of a future corporate mission, grounded as much in economics as in moral certainty. Rest assured that when Joshua returns next year in a sequel called Joshua in the Holy Land, Father Girzone's Christlike new-guy-in-town will be trying to make peace between warring Palestinians and Israelis -- not hitting the after-hours clubs or shooting up the joint.

westword.com | originally published: April 18, 2002


TOPICS: Culture/Society
KEYWORDS: christianity; conservatism; culture

1 posted on 04/18/2002 9:27:13 AM PDT by laureldrive
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To: laureldrive
Thanks for such good news, hope they'll add some of Horton Foote's gems to the line-up.
2 posted on 04/18/2002 9:37:45 AM PDT by Mahone
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To: laureldrive
To be honest, this business about Joshuah makes me a bit nervous. Messing around with Jesus, even with the best of intentions, is somewhat risky. The rest of it sounds great. I've seen a number of movies over the past decade that were pretty good but were dragged down by Hollywood's need to put an R-rated scene in them whether it fits or not. It would be wonderful just to have some good movies where the director had some basic moral sense and the producer didn't insist on working in sex scenes just because that is now the Hollywood tribal custom.
3 posted on 04/18/2002 9:45:25 AM PDT by Cicero
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To: laureldrive
I have for years felt that Christians put out what can best be described as "oncologically" based media. Nearly every announcer on Christian radio sounds as if he is in the terminally ill ward of a hospital waiting for the demise of the patient. Interviews with individuals are tear-jerkers that concentrate on empathizing with them to no one's benefit. Christian movies leave much to be desired. (How disappointing was the movie version of "Left Behind?") What is the common element in all of this that makes it so? Christians have no "edge." We don't need to be like the world but we do need to show our enthusiasm and joy and competitiveness and strength and, yes, compassion but compassion with backbone not our usual "slug-like," non-vertibrate imitation of the world's image of what we are. And that is the problem! We are NOT what the world views Christian's as being but we spend a lot of time trying to be that. Jesus as meek and mild is only one aspect of His personality. Conquering King, ruler of all His Father gave Him is more like it. When we next see Him, that's how it will be.
4 posted on 04/18/2002 9:50:22 AM PDT by elephantlips
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To: laureldrive
Thank God! I belong to Steve Allen's group (I know he's deceased now) that monitors TV shows for parents, so this is a big, wonderful thing for us parents.

I have a hard time trying to figure out if a PG13 movie is going to be too "R" for my 14 year old son. I'm currently trying to decide if "The Scorpion King" will be too risque. I believe it is. So, we will see "The Rookie" instead.

5 posted on 04/18/2002 9:57:00 AM PDT by libertylass
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To: laureldrive
It's good to see someone with money do something honorable with it, not like Ted Turner or Andrew McKelvey.
6 posted on 04/18/2002 10:10:12 AM PDT by shekkian
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To: laureldrive
I'd like to see Clive Cussler's books made into movies. Of course, Dirk Pitt is as much a ladies man as James Bond, so I wonder how they're going to handle that.
7 posted on 04/18/2002 10:12:51 AM PDT by shekkian
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To: laureldrive; gophack; elkgrovedan
More power to 'im.

Maybe we can hope he follows Bill Simon's footsteps. Simon, of course, was the lead investor who made PAX-TV the success it is, and is now leading in the race for governor of California. Besides creating jobs, Simon determined there was a need for nonviolent, un-smutty entertainment and did something about it. Contrast that with the DemocRats' cozy ties with the most amoral elements of Hollywood (Larry Flynt, anyone?) and you will energize a substantial base of formerly disaffected voters-- the ones who have felt no urge to go to the polls in recent years because "all politicians are alike". About time.
8 posted on 04/18/2002 10:15:55 AM PDT by RightOnTheLeftCoast
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Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: one_particular_harbour
The only Cusller movie I'm aware of was Raise the Titanic, and it was so long ago I only vaugely remember it. I haven't seen Meggido.
11 posted on 04/18/2002 10:23:45 AM PDT by shekkian
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Comment #12 Removed by Moderator

To: laureldrive
As importantly if not more so is that Anschutz use his studio to make more Conservative viewpoint films. That can easily be done. Think of the flip side of The Contender or American Beauty. Films where RKBA supporters are not always loonies, Christians are not always child abusing nutcases, and Southerners are not always buttwhacking rednecks loonies ala Deliverance. THAT would be refreshing.
13 posted on 04/18/2002 10:30:48 AM PDT by wardaddy
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To: laureldrive
Movieguide, a conservative reviewing magazine, recently reported to movie-industry executives that films "with a very strong Christian worldview" earned nearly twice as much in 2001 as movies it categorized as "humanist, pagan, Romantic, Communist, feminist, occult, homosexual or anti-patriotic."

The next time someone liberal wag tells you that Hollywood doesn't have an agenda and that it's all about big money, cite this stat.

What fantastic news! If I were Mr. Anschutz, I'd get myself a troupe of highly-skilled body guards. This is exactly the kind of enterprise the commie-libs can't tolerate. May Almighty God watch over and protect him.
14 posted on 04/18/2002 10:32:00 AM PDT by Antoninus
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To: libertylass
LG, did you see the first 2 movies of the Mummy series? They were the inspiration for this one. As far as being "risque", my guess is probably not, although it may be a bit violent, if that bugs you.

Hope that helps.

15 posted on 04/18/2002 10:38:27 AM PDT by Lord_Baltar
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Comment #16 Removed by Moderator

To: wardaddy
As importantly if not more so is that Anschutz use his studio to make more Conservative viewpoint films. That can easily be done. Think of the flip side of The Contender or American Beauty. Films where RKBA supporters are not always loonies, Christians are not always child abusing nutcases, and Southerners are not always buttwhacking rednecks loonies ala Deliverance. THAT would be refreshing.

Easily done? I'm sorry but history doesn't support your claim regarding the ease. However, that's not to say it cannot be done. I've always been of the belief that too many people like to complain about movies and TV, and not enough willing to stick their necks out and actually try and make the kinds of movies and tv shows they'd like to see.

The problem is, and this is a cross ideology problem, if you try to hard to force your particular political/Sociological bent into your script, the movie/tv show looks too forced, and ends up flopping. Also, Conservative/Christian programming does have to compete with other movies/TV programs, both in themes, as well as visually. The production values have to be at least as high as the level of competition. Too many times that just hasn't been the case. Let's face it, Left Behind failed because it just looked dated by the visual standards of today's current movie releases. You cannot expect to compete with inferior product, regardless of how much you believe in the storylines.

I'm glad to see someone has finally gotten the stones enough to pick up the challenge I regularly tossed at folks who complain "If you don't like it, go do it yourself, and show them how you think it ought to be done"

BTW, if you want a great example of excellent production values, good performance levels, and the audience approval that backs up what I'm suggesting here, look at "Touched By An Angel". It proves a very old Theory of mind, People aren't opposed to watching shows with God in the story, as long as the Producers aren't reaching out from the TV set and bashing them over the heads with their Bibles.

17 posted on 04/18/2002 10:55:51 AM PDT by Lord_Baltar
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To: one_particular_harbour
True! As I mentioned before, if Left Behind had the Production values of "The Gladiator" or "Star Wars" it would have been a major blockbuster. Unfortunetly, the Producers felt that their Ideology was more important that was producing a movie that could compete. Sad too, because had the movie been as visual as the book, it might have been pretty cool.
18 posted on 04/18/2002 10:59:06 AM PDT by Lord_Baltar
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To: laureldrive
"It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." - Jesus Christ
19 posted on 04/18/2002 10:59:06 AM PDT by Exnihilo
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To: libertylass
libertylass wrote:

I have a hard time trying to figure out if a PG13 movie is going to be too "R" for my 14 year old son. I'm currently trying to decide if "The Scorpion King" will be too risque. I believe it is. So, we will see "The Rookie" instead.

The wife and kids saw The Rookie and loved it. Just FWIW.

Regards,
PrairieDawg

20 posted on 04/18/2002 11:03:21 AM PDT by PrairieDawg
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To: one_particular_harbour
I could live on a diet of movies which include "Gladiator", "The Patriot", "Patton", and just about any WWII or sports movie, but sadly, to that homeschooling mommy crowd that has tried to take over conservative morality, those are too rough. He is going to have to find a medium.

Sure, and it won't be that hard to do. Example: recently we rented "Rat Race"... what a hilarious movie. (Highly recommended, by the way.) Of course, some parts of it are a bit coarse. Still, my wife and kids enjoyed it so much that I went and rented "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (on which "Rat Race" was based).

Verdict: my kids liked Mad World better. "It's not as gross," they said. Sure was funny, though. And a better ending, too.

All Hollywood has to do is listen to my kids, and resist the temptation to do things like add unnecessary dog-butt jokes to "The Grinch" and fart jokes to "Shrek". A G rating isn't a curse.
21 posted on 04/18/2002 11:06:19 AM PDT by RightOnTheLeftCoast
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To: Antoninus
Movieguide, a conservative reviewing magazine, recently reported to movie-industry executives that films "with a very strong Christian worldview" earned nearly twice as much in 2001 as movies it categorized as "humanist, pagan, Romantic, Communist, feminist, occult, homosexual or anti-patriotic."

The next time someone liberal wag tells you that Hollywood doesn't have an agenda and that it's all about big money, cite this stat


Of course, the key here, is the way that Movieguide chooses to categorize movies... Frankly, I doubt that this stat would hold up under scrutiny - otherwise there would be a ton of Christian movies out there making a bunch of money.
22 posted on 04/18/2002 11:06:56 AM PDT by Stone Mountain
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Comment #23 Removed by Moderator

To: Stone Mountain
I doubt that this stat would hold up under scrutiny - otherwise there would be a ton of Christian movies out there making a bunch of money.

Michael Medved, movie reviewer and conservative talk show host, wonders all the time when HoWood is going to get it that nice clean movies enjoy high ratings. He frequently announces boxoffice numbers and clean movies consistently do as well as if not better than violent sex.

Someone I know in HoWood explains that much financing for films comes from foreigners who are unable to understand the concepts of nice films based on positive American culture. All they understand is that their last violence/sex film did well, so they want to do another.

24 posted on 04/18/2002 11:24:58 AM PDT by PoisedWoman
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To: one_particular_harbour
Wasn't it a hoot? I was paralyzed. The cows... the pierced tongue... the heart... the squirrel-lady... the Barbie Museum (which sent me helpless to the floor)... even Whoopi was a riot, and I dislike Whoopi! Cuba Gooding Jr. was wonderful, as were Rowan Atkinson, Jon Lovitz, John Cleese, Kathy Bates and the rest of the cast. No one stole the show except maybe the director and editor, whose sense of timing and relentless comedic build-up was absolutely merciless.

Rat Race is truly one of the funniest movies and best comedic ensembles of all time. And it's not too coarse by modern standards really. There's some language and some piercing-related innuendo, but that's about it. It was fun seeing Mad World later and, between hilarities, noting the common elements of the movies, such as the gas-station demolitions. And what casts both movies had!
25 posted on 04/18/2002 11:32:41 AM PDT by RightOnTheLeftCoast
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To: Antoninus
"What fantastic news! If I were Mr. Anschutz, I'd get myself a troupe of highly-skilled body guards. This is exactly the kind of enterprise the commie-libs can't tolerate. May Almighty God watch over and protect him."

Please! Get a Grip! Somehow I don't think the Producers of "Touched By An Angel" are being pursued by hit men from other Networks, and frankly I think the animous you portray here misses the mark by light years. I've heard many people you would paint as "commie libs" praising PAX TV, and echoing what I said earlier about people stepping up to the plate and doing it rather than sitting back and whining about it.

Quite frankly, there are countless storylines out there waiting to be brought to the screen which would accomplish what you'd like to see. Stories of Heroism, Adventure, Life Changing events, Miracles, and a myriad of other topics which could not only present a Conservative viewpoint, but draw an audience as well.

However, care should be given not to make the Dogma/Ideology the driving force behind making the movie in the first place. They need to start by making the Movie they want to see. Basically, the kind of movie where the viewer can check their own Ideology at the door, and be entertained, not preached at.

Face it, you don't like it when the "commie libs" do it, what makes it any better when Conservatives do it?

26 posted on 04/18/2002 11:33:26 AM PDT by Lord_Baltar
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To: Lord_Baltar
BTW, Has anyone seen the ads for Joshua? Now that looks like an Uber-Cool movie. G Rating, good for the whole family, and it also looks like it would make a good "Date Flick".
28 posted on 04/18/2002 11:36:38 AM PDT by Lord_Baltar
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To: laureldrive
"inspirational, historical, sports and adventure films that offer compelling, positive messages to our audiences.... We will make only films that are G-rated, or, in some instances, PG or PG-13."

What a breath of fresh air. I haven't been to a movie in a theater in over a year, but I will definitely make it a point to see this film -- as well as all the others listed. It's unbelievable to me that the movie moguls haven't picked up on this trend sooner -- especially when the bottom line $$$ favor this type of movie.

It just goes to show that most of the 'movie moguls' are not very smart businessmen, as well as being decadent human beings! I think that drugs, alchohol, and far left politics have taken their toll on the brain cells.

29 posted on 04/18/2002 11:41:50 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: Cicero
I've seen a number of movies over the past decade that were pretty good but were dragged down by Hollywood's need to put an R-rated scene in them whether it fits or not.

"Hear my Song" of 10, or so, years ago comes to mind. A fantastic movie, hilariously funny, but ruined for family fare by one brief scene incorporating a flash of full frontal nudity. It wasn't necessary for the story and spoiled a movie that, otherwise, been great for the kids.

30 posted on 04/18/2002 11:44:49 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: PoisedWoman
Michael Medved, movie reviewer and conservative talk show host, wonders all the time when HoWood is going to get it that nice clean movies enjoy high ratings. He frequently announces boxoffice numbers and clean movies consistently do as well as if not better than violent sex.

Well, let's look at the top grossing movies of 2000.

Harry Potter - $313.7M - has been called evil and Satanic by many Freepers...

Lord of the Rings - $217.4M - has also been called evil, although it was based on a book written by a devout Catholic, you can't really call this a nice clean movie...

Shrek - $267.6M, and Monsters Inc - $251.6M - both of these are suitable for children as well as adults. I don't know if either of these movies could be described as having a "strong Christian worldview" though, and that is the criterion that Movieguide was using

Rush Hour 2 - $226.1M and The Mummy Returns - $202M certainly can't be described as good Christian movies - both full of violence, and in the Mummy, occult as well.

Pearl Harbor - $ 198.5M - historical violence, romance, don't recall anything with a strong Christian worldview.

Jurrasic Park III - $181.2M, Ocean's 11 - $180.5M, Planet of the Apes - $180M - These are all violent movies.

So, out of the top ten grossing movies of 2001, how many of these would qualify as "with a very strong Christian worldview" and how many qualify as "humanist, pagan, Romantic, Communist, feminist, occult, homosexual or anti-patriotic?" Do you still really believe that films "with a very strong Christian worldview" earned nearly twice as much in 2001 as moviesthat are "humanist, pagan, Romantic, Communist, feminist, occult, homosexual or anti-patriotic?" I don't. I would be willing to be convinced, but so far, I don't think the data supports it at all.
31 posted on 04/18/2002 11:59:18 AM PDT by Stone Mountain
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To: shekkian
I think that should really be Dirk PittTM.
32 posted on 04/18/2002 11:59:43 AM PDT by Diverdogz
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Comment #33 Removed by Moderator

To: Stone Mountain
Do you still really believe that films "with a very strong Christian worldview" earned nearly twice as much in 2001 as moviesthat are "humanist, pagan, Romantic, Communist, feminist, occult, homosexual or anti-patriotic?"

I have no stats to argue one way or the other, but you are providing "grosses" and Movieguide said "earned". Do you suppose the difference lies between the meaning of those two words? And then there is the video rental and sales market. Have those figures been added? A lot of movie companies release a film to the theaters for only a week or so, expecting to make their profits at the video store.

34 posted on 04/18/2002 12:05:23 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic
Actually Afraid, the "earned" stats are an even harder animal to figure. A Movie starts earning once they have hit that magical "3 times the budget" number. That being, if I spend 25 Million to make a movie, I have to earn 75 Million before there is any "earned" profit.

However, you are correct that Box Office, Home Video Rental and Sales, Pay per View, and TV Broadcast numbers all go into the final total. It is safe to assume that if a Theatrical Feature only has a one week run, it isn't going to be a hit in the Video/TV market.

Bottom line in the Film/TV Industry, like it or not, is financial. Most High Level Movie Execs really could care less about Conservative vs. Liberal arguments or agendas, their concern is "If I spend 50 Million to make a Movie, what is going to generate the quickest route to that elusive profit".

I mean, let's face facts. Rupert Murdoch is a well known Staunch Conservative, ask yourself this, does every movie or TV program produced under the Fox banner, contain a Conservative Agenda? Or, do they mostly contain an agenda which in reality is a Financial agenda?

35 posted on 04/18/2002 12:57:10 PM PDT by Lord_Baltar
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To: Lord_Baltar
Rupert Murdoch is a well known Staunch Conservative, ask yourself this, does every movie or TV program produced under the Fox banner, contain a Conservative Agenda?

As it happens, I worked for Rupert briefly when he bought a newspaper that employed me as a political reporter. Rupert wanted eye-catching pictures and controversial headlines. Nothing mundane or ordinary. I expect that he didn't care which side of the political spectrum we wrote on, just as long as we stirred the $hit! LOL.

36 posted on 04/18/2002 1:28:11 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
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To: afraidfortherepublic
hehehehe... See!
37 posted on 04/18/2002 2:13:46 PM PDT by Lord_Baltar
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To: laureldrive
Don't know enough about this guy, but can't be worse than the crap they're putting out now. Plus this Baldwin guy has got to be better than those other Baldwins
38 posted on 04/23/2002 7:46:57 PM PDT by Michael2001
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To: one_particular_harbour; RightOnTheLeftCoast
My sides were aching from laughing so hard. The whole Barbie/E. Braun lipstick/ Hitler speech scenario....
39 posted on 04/23/2002 8:02:27 PM PDT by conservative cat
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