Commentary

The Secret Ingredient Behind Hollywood’s Sudden Passion for the Bible

By Ted Baehr | November 12, 2014 | 9:31am EST

Acclaimed director Ridley Scott’s next movie, “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” hits movie theaters Dec. 12, but, along with this year’s “Noah” movie, it’s not the only biblical movie Hollywood is making these days.

Hollywood also plans to release remakes of “The Ten Commandments” and “Ben-Hur,” and movies like “Christ the Lord” based on Anne Rice’s bestselling novels and “King David.”

Why the sudden interest in all things Bible?

Well, the first obvious reason is the financial success of such faith-based movies as “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Blind Side,” “Fireproof,” “Soul Surfer,” “Heaven Is for Real,” “God’s Not Dead,” and “Les Misérables,” not to mention TV producer Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey’s, success with the TV miniseries “The Bible,” which has been seen by more than 100 million people around the world.

But, there’s a major factor in this “new” trend that’s been somewhat of a secret, except to the studio executives, producers and filmmakers running Hollywood.

For nearly 30 years, I, along with my small staff, at the nonprofit ministry founded in 1985, the Christian Film & Television Commission® (which also runs www.movieguide.org, a review website), have been meeting with Hollywood executives and filmmakers to convince them that inspiring, redemptive movies with positive Christian worldviews, values and content not only benefit society, including families with children, but also make lots of money.

The mass media shapes the hearts, minds and actions of our children and grandchildren. And, Hollywood leads the way.

1) More than three quarters of Americans say they are Christian; 2) More than 2.37 billion people worldwide are Christian; and 3) Many more Americans go to church once every week than go to the movies, more than two to five times as many, depending on whom you ask.

The family market is also quite huge. So, shouldn’t Hollywood be making more wholesome family movies and more movies with positive Christian and biblical content and values than R-rated movies that undermine families and attack those values?

Year in and year out, the most family-friendly and most faith-friendly movies make much more money at the box office here and overseas and on home video than the least family-friendly and the least faith-friendly movies.

For example, last year the major theatrical movies rated G and PG averaged $63.38 million per movie in earnings in the U.S. and Canada, but R-rated movies only averaged $21.76 million per movie. Also, movies with very strong Christian, redemptive worldviews, values and/or content averaged $87.07 million, but movies with very strong anti-supernatural, atheist-oriented worldviews, values and content only averaged 3.36 million.

One of the Christian Film & Television Commission®’s favorite superhero characters is Captain America. In the huge blockbuster movie Marvel’s “The Avengers,” when one character says Loki is a god, Captain America replies, “There’s only one God, ma’am, and He doesn’t dress like that!”

Also in that movie, Iron Man sacrifices his life to save the human race but undergoes a symbolic resurrection. Just before doing that, Iron Man makes a reference to the biblical story of Jonah and the whale, the same imagery Jesus used in the New Testament when He described His own death and resurrection.

Movies with strong positive Christian content in them are so successful that even the last James Bond movie, ‘Skyfall,’ had some rather overt, positive references to Jesus Christ and Christianity.

“Skyfall” is now the most successful James Bond movie ever made, earning more than $1 billion worldwide.

Does he expect all of the biblical, faith-based movies Hollywood’s making to be as successful as “The Avengers” or “The Bible” miniseries?

No, of course not. But, if done right, with biblical accuracy, respect and a dramatic, entertaining presentation – along with the right marketing – they can find a huge, rewarding audience nonetheless.

Author of “The Culture-Wise Family” and “How To Succeed in Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul),” Dr. Baehr is chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission® (CFTVC) and its family guide to movies and entertainment, Movieguide® (www.movieguide.org). CFTVC and Movieguide® are an international, non-profit ministry dedicated to “redeeming the values of the entertainment industry by influencing industry executives and by informing and equipping the public about the influence of the entertainment media.”

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