2000: Return to Him-Part 2

By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©2001
Dr. Dr. Ted Baehr, publisher of MovieGuide®, gives a surprising analysis of the movies released during the year 2000, and how movies with a “Christian” or “family friendly” message fared against those with secular, occult and/or sexual themes.

2000: Return to Him—Part 2

TV Blockbusters

Television networks were surprised when Bible oriented programs such as JESUS and the MIRACLE MAKER beat the competition and won their time periods. As a result, the networks are planning more of these programs for 2001. Not all will be good, of course, but this is a positive trend.

Some Startling Findings

An eight-year survey of global Christianity, the newly published second edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia, running to almost 1,800 pages and costing around $300, contains good news. It notes that Christianity has become “the most extensive and univer­sal religion in history,” with some 2 billion adherents–one in three of the world’s population– at the start of the new millennium.

In the last century, there was a huge shift in the racial makeup of believers globally, from 81 percent white in 1900 to 55 percent non-white last year. Also, the charismatic renewal was a major influence, with 520 million current members of Pentecostal and char­ismatic denominations and movements. Almost 800 million people have been touched by the Spirit since 1900.

Regarding church attendance in America: 60 percent of Americans attend a church service in a typical weekend, or 170 million people; and, 40 percent claim to regularly attend church every Sunday, or 113 million people, according to the Barna Research Group, 2000.

A meager 7 percent of American adults describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, but 19 percent of atheists and agnostics pray to God during a typical week, according to Inside NRB, Vol. 2, Issue 17.

God Loves a Cheerful Giver

According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Americans gave $190.16 billion to charity in 1999, a rise of 6.7 percent from 1998 in inflation-adjusted dollars, according to a report by Giving USA. Individuals gave $143.71 billion in 1999, foundations contributed $19.81 billion, corporations chipped in $11.02 billion, and $15.61 billion came in by way of be­quest. Thus, 75.6 percent came from individuals, 10.4 percent from foundations, 8.2 per­cent by bequest, and 5.8 percent from corporations.

Donations to churches, synagogues and other religious institutions grew to $81.8 billion in 1999, a rise of 3 percent. Those funds represent 43 percent of the total donations in 1999, down from 48.5 percent in 1989.

Left Behind

In stark contrast to the number of Americans in church every year (8.84 billion people) and the fact that donations to churches, synagogues and other religious institutions were $81.8 billion in 1999, the movie box office attendance last year was only 1.43 billion, and total box office receipts were $7.45 billion. Thus, approximately 6 times more people went to church than movies, and Americans gave 11 times more money to churches and 25 times more money to charity than to the box office.

Box office gross receipts were up only about two percent from 1999. Before a spate of holiday movies starring Jim Carrey, Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, and Mel Gibson, however, receipts were down about five percent.

Overall in 2000, admissions totaled 1.43 billion which was down about 2.5 percent from 1999’s admissions.

This number of admissions is still only about 75 percent of the total number of admis­sions in 1966, when 38 million tickets were sold each week, or about 1.98 billion admis­sions per year. Considering that the United States population has increased from about 197 million people to about 286 million people, the number of tickets purchased per person has decreased 50 percent since 1966, from 10 tickets per person to five tickets per person. Recent reports of a $10 ticket price in large cities like New York will depress this number even further.

The Kid

The power player in Hollywood, whose tastes often determine whether a movie suc­ceeds or fails, whom movie executives are trying to please more than anyone else, is a 14­year-old baby kaboomer (or generation Y2K). If he likes the movie, he’ll spend another $8 to see it again. Teenage males in America see more movies than girls their age and vastly more than any other age group. Much more important to the moguls who run movie stu­dios, these youths see movies early-usually in the first week or 10 days of release, and, by doing so, they wield a lot of power because if the early box office buzz is good, it can give a movie legs.

This is why so many teen pictures are being made. Movie stars who bring adults to the theaters leave many teenagers cold. Teenage boys prefer action and humor, but even so, teenagers are hard to target in movie marketing campaigns because they’re spread out watch­ing 40 to 50 channels of cable and surfing on the Internet which makes it tougher to get a message to them. Therefore, selling a movie to a teenage boy is much more grass-roots.

Today’s teenagers are the offspring of the youth of the swinging 60s. When HANNIBEL opened to $58 million, many people were perplexed. What happened to the days when family films made more money at the box office?

The financial security of family films is being challenged by the new crop of teenagers, who are entering their teenage years. Studies have shown that teenagers gravitate not only to R-rated movies, but especially to horror movies.

Studios are now realizing that the U.S. teenage population will be rising to more than 50 million by the year 2005, much larger than the original baby boom at its peak. That is more than enough to make action adventure and slasher and gasher SCREAM 3-type movies a big hit.

Today’s teenagers may be even more of a pop culture steamroller than their parents were. There will be as many of them as there were teenage boomers during the 1960s. They see far more movies than any other demographic group. While only 16 percent of the population, they buy 25 percent of the movie tickets. Raised by cable TV, they want con­stant stimulation. Teenagers spend $122 billion of their own and their parents’ money each year, not including their influence on family purchases.

Moviegoing is considered an “in” activity among 92 percent of teenagers, more than playing sports (89 percent), using the Internet (90 percent) or going to the beach (76 per­cent). These preferences are in stark contrast to the population at large according to USA Today which reported that going to church is the favorite leisure time activity of Americans since 55 percent of the American people go to church once a week; 53 percent go out to dinner once a week; 27 percent read fiction once a week; 11 percent play sports once a week; and, 9 percent go to movies once a week.

Thus, there is no doubt that this baby kaboom is changing the economic analysis of the box office.

What can we do? Perhaps, we can reach the teenagers for Christ before they become corrupted by the visions of horror from the entertainment industry and teach them to be media-wise.

The Influence Screams for Responsibility

The first time 16-year-old Jessie Holtmeyer met 15-year-old Kimmy Dotts, Jessie was watching the horror movie SCREAM. When she spotted Kimmy on her porch, she told her fiancé, 18-year-old Aaron Straw, “Why did you bring her here? I don’t like her.” Jessie turned back to her movie, where a serial killer lynches a terrified, teenage girl from a tree. “It would be fun to hang someone,” Jessie said. Later on, Jessie’s words would be remem­bered by her friend Dawn because later that same night, Jessie, Aaron and their friend Teresa would place a noose on Kimmy’s head as a “test” to make sure she wouldn’t snitch on them about stealing a car and other petty crimes. Aaron and Jessie reportedly pulled the rope until Kimmy’s body went limp. When Kimmy suddenly gasped for air, Jessie reportedly found a big rock and bashed Kimmy’s head in with five measured blows. “It was fun to hang somebody,” Dawn said she heard Jessie say later. “It would be fun to do that again.”

Does SCREAM filmmaker Wes Craven care that his movie inspired this horrendous crime?

Since Hollywood movies know no boundaries, it is interesting to note that a jury in England convicted three British teenagers of torturing a 15-year-old to death. The boys acted out a torture scene from the violent thriller RESERVOIR DOGS, where an evil crimi­nal “has fun” biting off his victim’s ear while beating him. In the incident, the boys cut off their victim’s ear before beating, stamping, punching, kicking, and stabbing him to death. David Alton, a prominent British campaigner against screen violence, urged that the rules on selling or renting violent movies to children ought to be overhauled. “These boys should never have seen this film in the first place,” he added.

The Solution

To paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt: If you educate a man’s mind and not his heart, you will have an educated barbarian.

Parents need to help teens become children of the King of Kings, not “natural born killers” and residents of the infamous cable TV program SOUTH PARK.

THE MEDIA-WISE FAMILY is 90 percent solution oriented to do just that–help you help your children to become your ally by learning how to be media-wise. It is available in a written, audio and televised form.

One 15-year-old told me he could discern between good and evil, so he felt that it was okay for him to watch horror movies such as SCREAM and HALLOWEEN. I replied that he needed to be motivated by wisdom to choose the good and reject the bad.

THE MEDIA-WISE FAMILY gives parents the ability to win the culture wars where it counts–in their homes.

To God Be the Glory

Furthermore, in Hollywood, there is good news. Since we were called by God to redeem the values of the mass media of entertainment, we have seen more and more of the results of our strategic efforts to clean the screens because 1) the number of pro-Christian movies has increased (from 2 to 118); 2) Hollywood studios have developed working relationships with us; and, 3) more and more top Hollywood executives and creative talent joined with us to produce better movies and entertainment.

As 2000 progressed, more Christians in the entertainment industry made their beliefs a matter of record, more key media executives accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, more industry leaders accepted responsibility for their productions, and more teen­agers and moral adults became serious about the impact of the mass media of entertain­ment on their lives and sought our help in choosing the good and rejecting the bad and in developing the skills necessary to use, without being abused by, the mass media of enter­tainment.

Furthermore, as you can read in our 2001 MOVIEGUIDE® Report, the number of televi­sion networks, radio networks and other outlets for MOVIEGUIDE® throughout the world increased dramatically.

Just the Facts

One of the key elements of our strategy to redeem the values of the mass media is our Annual Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry. From the detailed informa­tion that we are unique in gathering for MOVIEGUIDE®, we prepare our annual Report to the Entertainment Industry. Information on negative or positive content, biblical or anti-biblical themes, increase or decrease of sex or violence, and about 20 other indicators, is carefully tabulated and charted and compared with box office receipts and numbers and prior years. Based on this empirical data, we demonstrate to Hollywood executives that America’s public prefers positive movies, and it would benefit them to support the produc­tion of more good movies.

The Report to the Entertainment Industry:

Allows us to present comprehensive statistical data (in graph form) on close to 300 movies reviewed and analyzed during the previous year to studio heads, executives, ac­tors, press, and other key industry leaders.

Encourages industry leaders to continue producing wholesome and family-oriented films.

Establishes fellowship, networking and goodwill among key members of the entertainment community. Strong relationships have developed and continue to grow from past events.

Pay it Forward

Families and moral Americans are beginning to understand that Hollywood entertain­ment influences and impacts not only our youth, our families and our future, but also the whole world. Therefore, we need to continue to redeem the values of the mass media so that this persuasive medium can bless and not corrupt more and more people.

The good news is that there are some significant signs of revival in the United States and in Hollywood. Many media executives and talent are re-establishing contact with the broad moral audience, and those men and women can look forward to improved box office performances in their movies. Of course, the Christian Film and Television Commission is ready and available to help them understand the vast moral American audience.

Furthermore, more than ever since the rise of non-Christian worldview movies, MOVIEGUIDE® serves as a useful tool to help people discern what pictures are appropri­ate out of the many movies released reflecting a plethora of worldviews and themes. MOVIEGUIDE® takes the guesswork out of choosing entertainment. So, until Hollywood creates more movies in line with mainstream American values, MOVIEGUIDE® will help you find the moral trees through a dense forest of eclectic worldviews, problematic morality and questionable characters.

The good news is that there is good fruit, there are more movies with Christian content. The better news is that we have the tools to help people make wise choices, and to help them teach their children how to make wise choices, such as THE MEDIA-WISE FAMILY book. There are even several new MEDIA-WISE™ resources to help you: a four-part MEDIA-WISE FAMILY video series and a four-part MEDIA-WISE FAMILY audio series. And, you can read MEDIA-WISE MOMENTS in our magazine and on our Internet site, www.movieguide.org.


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