There’s been a tremendous explosion of Christian faith and values in movies and television programs. Our work in the entertainment industry, especially the Christian Film & Television Commission and Movieguide, has been leading the way.
Back in the late 1970s, I was honored to be elected president of the Episcopal Radio-TV Foundation, which produced during my tenure “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” a CBS-TV program that won a Prime Time Emmy Award and was watched by over 37 million people. During that time, I advised: 1) Vincenzo Labella to encourage the addition of a resurrection sequence to “Jesus of Nazareth,” so some groups would refrain from boycotting the television movie as too humanist; and, 2) John Heyman, who produced The Genesis Project, from which he extracted “The Jesus Film” with the famous Dr. Bill Bright.
Soon thereafter, I inherited the files from the Protestant Film Office and started Movieguide and Christian Film & Television Commission to help encourage more movies with Christian faith and values.
At that time, there was one movie with Christian faith, “The Trip to Bountiful,” and only a handful of family movies. Also, like the church film offices of the 1930s, we helped families teach their children to be media wise and gave them analysis through Movieguide so they could choose the good, rather than be surprised by the bad. Developing a media-and-culture-wise curriculum started in the 1970s, when as head of the TV Center at City University of New York, I joined with 60 professors to design and test one of the very first media-literacy courses.
Miraculously, since Christian Film & Television Commission and Movieguide began holding the Annual Faith & Values Awards celebrating family movies and movies and TV programs with Christian faith values 25 years ago, the percentage of movies with at least some Christian, redemptive content (which we label C, CC or CCC) has increased from about 25 such movies to more than 160!
Judging by this year’s surprising releases, that trend doesn’t show any signs of stopping.
Twenty years ago, the Movieguide Awards started handing out its Epiphany Prizes for Inspiring Movies & TV, which celebrate the strongest movies with Christian faith and values.
Movieguide recently studied 128 movies with strong Christian, redemptive content (CC or CCC) released in 1996, 2012 and 2015. We found that the number of movies with such content has increased 194 percent since 1996, and 38.3 percent in the three years since 2012 — from only 16 such movies in 1996 to 47 movies in 2012 and 65 movies in 2015!
Our study also showed that the theatrical box office totals in the United States and Canada for such movies increased from $208.63 million in 1996 to $3.69 billion in 2012 and nearly $5.35 billion in 2015, an increase of 2,463 percent and 44.78 percent, respectively.
And that doesn’t include the money these movies made overseas or on home video!
Movieguide’s study didn’t just measure successful Epiphany Prize-winning, faith-based movies like “The Preacher’s Wife” from 1996 and last year’s “War Room.” We also studied major Hollywood movies with strong, including overt, Christian content and values, such as Disney’s 1996 animated classic “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and Universal’s blockbuster “Furious 7”, both of which had overt, positive Christian content and values.
Also included in Movieguide’s database were small movies with Christian, redemptive content such as 1996’s “Citizen Ruth” and 2015’s “Captive.”
Similar successes are happening in the television industry.
This can be seen not only in the success of such recent Christocentric programs as “Duck Dynasty,” “The Bible” miniseries and last year’s Epiphany-Prize-winning TV movie “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors,” but also in the Christian, redemptive, biblical, and conservative values expressed in such popular TV programs as “Blue Bloods,” “Chicago Fire,” “NCIS,” “Walker, Texas Ranger,” and “Seventh Heaven.”
What’s the secret to this success?
Well, each year we publish a comprehensive 150-point analysis of all the major movies released by the entertainment industry, including the major independent and foreign language releases, known as the Report to the Entertainment Industry. This annual report shows that movies and television programs with moral, spiritually uplifting and inspiring content usually earn the most money at the box office and on home video, and get some of the highest ratings on TV.
To do this annual report, our staff watches more than 300 movies, and screens more than 400 television programs. We write comprehensive reviews of more than 275 movies each year and at least 50 television programs that qualify for the two or so TV awards we hand out at our Awards Gala.
Our comprehensive analysis proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that most moviegoers and TV viewers prefer TV programs and movies with Christian, moral, redemptive and inspiring content. They want to see the hero triumphant, as in popular TV programs like “NCIS” and “Blue Bloods,” and popular movies like Marvel’s superhero extravaganzas. They also want to see good overcome evil, justice prevail over injustice, and truth erase falsehood. And, they want to see their Christian faith and values lifted up, rather than viciously and unjustly attacked.
In reality, our success of promoting and honoring the good, the true and the beautiful in entertainment at the Annual Faith & Values Awards isn’t solely our own doing.
No, any success we have had over the past decades is a direct result of the miracles that God has been performing in the entertainment industry, often through us but also through the efforts of countless other people, especially the Christian filmmakers and television artists and others of good will who’ve responded to our message or who’ve responded to God’s call.
Each year we are amazed by the great things God has done. A lot more work needs to be done to clean the screens, of course, but if we are faithful, God will be for us. If God be for us, then who can stand against us?
• Theodore “Ted” Baehr, J.D., is chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission and publisher of Movieguide (movieguide.org), a trademarked family guide to entertainment. An award-winning media authority, his books include “How To Succeed In Hollywood (Without Losing Your Soul)” and “The Culture-Wise Family.” Film scholar Tom Snyder, Ph.D., is editor of Movieguide. He is co-author with Dr. Baehr of “Frodo & Harry: Understanding Visual Media and Its Impact on Our Lives.”
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