- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2006

During the Golden Age of Hollywood in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, the major movie studios worked closely with the Protestant Film Office and the Roman Catholic Legion of Decency to reach the broadest possible audience and to avoid governmental censorship.

Due to this partnership, films like “Ben Hur” and “The Ten Commandments” became the two highest grossing religious pictures of all time.

Because of a withdrawal of funding by conservative denominations and in-fighting among liberal denominations, however, the Protestant Film Office shut its doors in 1966, contrary to the desires of many studio heads at the time. This invaluable advisory resource on spiritual, moral and religious matters left a vacuum in the entertainment industry.

To placate the anxious public, a new rating system was introduced by Jack Valenti, a liberal marketing guru in the Lyndon Johnson administration. Three years after the closing of the Protestant Film Office, attendance in movie theaters plunged from 44 million weekly to 19 million weekly in 1969.

By this time television had been around for 20 years and VCR and cable were 20 years into the future, so it is clear the biggest impact on the box office was the degradation in the moral and spiritual content of the movies.

In 1969, “Midnight Cowboy,” a homoerotic X-rated movie about a male prostitute dressed in a cowboy hat with a sickly, foul-mouthed friend, won the Oscar for Best Picture.

The power vacuum left by the closing of the Protestant Film Office had begun to be filled by radical, leftist and secular elements whose main purpose was to “push the envelope” and change the mores and political outlook of the American public.

A new crop of independent young filmmakers began appearing in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Using new and cheaper technology, this group started getting noticed for dark, edgy movies with explicit sexual themes. Many of these newcomers were radicalized by neo-Marxist, atheist and feminist intellectuals now running many film departments on our nation’s campuses, departments like those on the campuses of New York University and Northwestern University in Chicago.

The young filmmakers are now in control of much of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, as clearly indicated by this year’s Oscar nominations. These are actors, directors and producers who make or appear in one or two movies for Sundance Film Festival, but have never directed or acted in a movie produced by one of the six major studios.

This large Academy voting block anointed the movie receiving the most nominations this year — sexually explicit, “Brokeback Mountain.” The film was nominated in eight categories but won in three, none of them for acting. “Brokeback” garnered Oscars for best director, adapted screenplay and its musical score.

Also garnering major nominations, and among the favorites were the radical, anti-American, terrorist sympathetic movie “Syriana,” whose George Clooney won as Best Supporting Actor, and the transsexual movie “Transamerica,” whose Felicity Huffman was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar but lost to Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal of Johnny Cash’s soul mate June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line.”

The major studios only produce about 140 movies a year. Thus, there are, at the most, only about a few hundred talented individuals who made a major studio movie in 2005. There are, however, 6,000 members in the Academy.

The Academy’s new, radical, leftist membership undoubtedly pushed the envelope again this year. Sunday’s Oscar ceremony shaped up as another Red State vs. Blue State scenario in which radicals and secular “progressives” pushed a perverted, anti-American agenda.

However, only Oscar’s hype for Best Picture nominee “Brokeback Mountain” has made a significant dent in what most moviegoers and home video consumers want to see.

Movies like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Syriana” and “Transamerica” very rarely make more than $50 million, much less $100 million or $200 million (Hollywood’s usual Gold Standards for financial success). In fact, movies like this usually make less than $15 million at the box office.

Most moviegoers and home video consumers want to see conservative, pro-family, pro-American movies celebrating traditional family values and Judeo-Christian virtues. They want to see movies like “Finding Nemo,” “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Incredibles,” “Madagascar,” “Spider-Man,” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

These are the kinds of movies we celebrated at the 14th Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry, held prior to the Academy Awards.

Each year, the Oscar ceremony loses television ratings because of its self-indulgence and recognition of films few Americans want to see. Meanwhile, movies that portray family values seem to excel at the box office.

An independent analysis compiled by Movieguide found films with pro-family, patriotic and Judeo-Christian morality themes were the highest-grossing genre, earning on average $62.5 million over the last seven years. Films with these kinds of positive themes earn on average 3 to 6 times more at the box office than those with negative themes, and sometimes a whole lot more.

Hollywood executives, whose bottom line is to make money on movies they produce, should push back against these trends toward seediness, once again honor the good, the true and the beautiful and win back the hearts and minds of all decent Americans.

Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide and chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, is a well-known movie critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit.Tom Snyder is editor of Movieguide and the Christian Film & Television Commission.

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