Is Hollywood Finally Getting the Message on Family-friendly Entertainment?
Back in 1985, there were, at the most, only one or two major animated movies for families. This year, there are more than 10 such movies. In that same year, 1985, 46.7 percent of the movies released theatrically were R-rated, but in 2012, only 28.2 percent of the theatrical releases were rated R.
The average earnings of movies with very strong Christian, redemptive content or worldviews have grown from only $21.14 million per movie in 1995 to more than $90.78 million in 2012. And, that only represents what such movies earned in the United States and Canada. It doesn't include what they earned overseas or on home video.
These numbers don't lie. Neither do the ratings numbers for such faith and family friendly television programs as The History Channel's recent Bible miniseries, or A&E's popular Duck Dynasty program. Last spring, The Bible miniseries was viewed by more than 100 million people overall.
Clearly, something is happening.
One factor may well be Movieguide® (www.movieguide.org), the family guide to movies and entertainment founded by Christian leader Dr. Ted Baehr. Movieguide is approaching its 29th year of encouraging better values in Hollywood, the center of the world's mass media of entertainment.
As Walt Disney once said, "Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young minds."
"One hundred years ago," Dr. Baehr added, "you learned through your parents. Those were your role models. That's where you got your scripts of behavior. Today, children's scripts of behavior come from the mass media. So, we have a responsibility to think about the children and grandchildren. Children learn by imitating. And, when they imitate, that becomes their scripts of behavior.
"What scripts of behavior do you want children to have? And, isn't it better to sell four movie tickets instead of just one or two?"
In addition to its efforts to increase the numbers of family-friendly movies with no objectionable content, Movieguide also actively supports movies with strong and overt Christian content.
When Movieguide began in 1985, only about 1.5 percent of the movies released contained at least some positive Christian, redemptive content. In eight years, that percentage climbed to 10.38 percent and, by 2009, the percentage was climbing regularly past 56 percent.
For more than 21 years, Movieguide has been showing Hollywood executives, producers, writers, and directors -- at its Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry -- that family-friendly movies with strong Christian, redemptive content earn three to seven times as much money as movies with strong Non-Christian, or even Anti-Christian content, with explicit sex, nudity, gory violence, substance abuse, and other immoral content. Movieguide has begun the Epiphany Prizes for Inspiring Movies & TV Programs with strong Christian, redemptive content
"Of course," Dr. Baehr said, "it's one thing to watch a program for free in the comfort of your living room. It's a different activity altogether to get up off your couch and take your family to a movie theater, where you have to shell out money not only for tickets but also for goodies at the concession counter.
"That's why movie ticket sales, and DVD sales figures, are a much better predictor of the values the general public holds closest to their hearts."
For example, Les Miserables, the $100,000 Epiphany Prize winner for 2012, has earned $148.8 million in the U.S. and Canada, with an additional $293 million overseas and $29.3 million in DVD sales.
In comparison to the U.S. and Canadian figures above ($90.78 million on average and $148.8 million for Les Mis), movies with very strong Non-Christian or Anti-Christian worldviews averaged only $20.2 million at the box office in 2012.
According to the Motion Picture Association of America, Hollywood spends up to $100 million or more producing, distributing, and marketing the average movie. The annual budget for Movieguide, however, is less than $2.5 million.
"Clearly," Dr. Baehr said, "the impact and cost effectiveness of Movieguide and its Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry is inescapable and incredibly striking. "Hollywood has become the primary teacher of our children and grandchildren. They represent our future.
In an era where many feel our popular culture is promoting nothing but decadence, the ongoing turnaround in Hollywood has gone largely unnoticed by many of its critics. While much more remains to be done, the message that audiences support positive values at the box office is being heard.
Tom Snyder is editor of Movieguide Magazine, and holds a PhD in Film Studies from Northwestern University.