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March 12, 2005
Column #1,228

                     
     Movies Are Getting Better, but Not TV
                      
      Have you noticed that there are more and more moral movies? 

     THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was not only a powerful movie of the crucifixion of Jesus, but it appeared only a year after THE GOSPEL OF JOHN brought to life Jesus as seen by the Apostle John.

     LUTHER was another biographical film that brought a Christian hero to life. Totally different but with strong moral themes were the movies, THE POLAR EXPRESS, THE INCREDIBLES, SPIDER-MAN 2, SHREK II, SHARK TAIL, NATIONAL TREASURE, COLLATERAL, MIRACLE and A CINDERELLA STORY.

     In fact, 45 percent of the 250 films released last year were stories of hope where genuine heroes struggle with evil but emerge triumphant, where fathers apologize to their sons for errors, reports Dr. Theodore Baehr, Chairman and Founder of the Christian Film & Television Commission.

     Nearly half of all movies have a positive message? It was not always so. When the Commission began watching Hollywood's productions in 1985 to advise parents what to see or avoid, only 5 films had positive Christian content - a mere 2 percent.

     I give Ted Baehr much of the credit for this remarkable change in Hollywood. He has used four strategies to transform "tinseltown."

     First, he reviews every major movie, and gives it a rating and publishes his findings monthly in MOVIEGUIDE, a Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment. Second, he provides TV and radio commentaries which are aired on Christian radio stations.

     Third, his Commission has presented awards to the most moral films one week before the Academy Awards. This year's John Templeton Foundation's Epiphany Prize of $50,000 for the most inspirational movie went to THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, won last year by THE GOSPEL OF JOHN.

     Baehr says the purpose of the awards is to "create a deeper spiritual awareness in mankind and increasing man's love and understanding of God." 

     Finally, the Commission has kept a sharp eye on the economic impact of each film. The Academy Awards may have overlooked Mel Gibson's astonishing story of the Crucifixion, but not the public which spent $611 million to see it.

     In fact, the movies with very strong moral content "earned nearly $106.7 million on average, more than SIX TIMES as much money as movies with very strong immoral, negative or anti-religious content, which averaged only $16.4 million per movie in 2004," Baehr reports.

     Is that due to the phenomenal success of THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST? 

     No. Baehr reports the same pattern year after year. In 2003 films with strong moral content took in an average of $92.5 million vs. less than $15 million each for negative or immoral content. In 2002 the positive films earned $71 million on average vs. less than $13 million for anti-Christian movies.

     The LORD OF THE RINGS movies, for example, are big at the box office because they provide an uplifting message that people want to see.

     "It is a miracle that audiences are choosing good movies," Dr. Baehr comments. 

     By contrast, KINSEY, with a very strong politically correct, humanist worldview and a very strong homosexual content grossed a meager $9 million or 1.5 million ticket sales, "a very pathetic amount in a country with 295 million people".

     Yet 20th Century Fox, like all other major studios in Hollywood refused to distribute THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST while it did distribute KINSEY. Movies with explicit sex earned less than $6.3 million on average.

     Hollywood is slowly paying attention to Dr. Baehr's message. It would rather earn money than not, so it is producing more films like THE PASSION and LADDER 49.

     Unfortunately, television has not gotten the message that people want to see uplifting drama, not sleaze and bare breasts. Why not?

     Television is produced by direct vote of advertisers, who are seeking not the largest audience, but the largest number of 18-24 year olds. Thus, "Christy" which was in the top five shows in ratings gets dropped. And HBO on Friday night is straight pornography.

     There are occasional superb TV shows, such as "Joan of Arc" which will be aired March 21 on the Hallmark Channel. It is about the French teenager who almost defeated the invading British army with her inspirational leadership of the French army.

     I have two suggestions. Subscribe to Movieguide to know what movies & TV to see or avoid (805 383-2000).

     Write President Bush and suggest that Ted Baehr be named Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission which regulates television, to replace the retiring Michael Powell.

 

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