- - Thursday, February 19, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The movie “American Sniper” passed $300 million in box-office receipts last weekend, on pace to become the top-grossing R-rated film ever. The enormous appeal of Clint Eastwood’s movie about the life and military career of Chris Kyle, a U.S. Navy SEAL marksman, naturally puzzles Hollywood liberals who think they understand America. They’ll have something to talk about at the 87th Academy Awards gala Sunday night.

The editors at Movieguide, which calls itself as “the family guide to movies and entertainment,” are not puzzled at all. In its annual box-office review, Movieguide finds that U.S. moviegoers voted with their wallets again in 2014, showing a strong preference for films with strong traditional values over movies with a strong liberal or left-wing slant. The margin was better than 4 to 1.

Movieguide reviewed the content of 282 movies released both by leading studios and top independent producers. Films “with strong pro-American, patriotic, capitalist, anti-socialist, anti-communist, [and/or] anti-statist content and values” — all the things that curdle the cream in the coffee in Hollywood — took in far more money per movie than films “with strong anti-American, anti-patriotic, welfare-statist, Marxist, secular, atheist, leftist, radical feminist, and/or very strong perverse content or values.” The movies “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Monuments Men” and “Unbroken” were among the former, and “Foxcatcher,” “Maleficent” and “Rosewater” among the latter.

Traditional-values movies grossed an average of $71.49 million; movies with left-wing values brought in $17.39 million per film.

“American Sniper” is not included in those figures because it was released late in the year. Boxofficemojo.com, however, reports that “Sniper” grossed $306.47 million in the first eight weeks after limited release in December, remarkable since it was not released nationally until Jan. 16. “American Sniper” seems likely to eclipse another conservative favorite, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ,” which in 2004 grossed $370.8 million, the top-grossing R-rated film to date.

“The success of conservative values in 2014 was no mistake,” says Ted Baehr, founder of Movieguide. “It has been true ever since we began doing our political analysis 12 years ago in 2003.” Such movies also perform better among movie audiences overseas and in DVD sales.

“People want good to overcome evil, justice to prevail over injustice, and liberty to conquer tyranny,” says Mr. Baehr, a lawyer who is chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, a nonprofit ministry. “They respond to strong heroes and even strong heroines, but they are turned off by radical anti-capitalist, social-engineering schemes and big-government programs full of faceless bureaucrats.”

It’s just this box-office success of films showcasing traditional moral values that enable liberals in Hollywood to indulge themselves with movies that mock the values and beliefs of most Americans. The movies with left-wing themes often don’t recoup the costs of production, distribution and marketing.

“American Sniper” is up for six Academy Awards on Sunday night, including Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actor (Bradley Cooper).

Its rivals for Best Picture include two of the films Movieguide rates as having strong left-wing content, “The Imitation Game” and “Boyhood.” “The Imitation Game” has grossed only $80 million; “Boyhood” an anemic $25 million. Neither made Boxofficemojo’s Top 200. “Message movies,” which try to sell a political point of view, have rarely done well. In the old Hollywood adage, variously attributed to Sam Goldwyn or Frank Capra, “If you want to send a message, go to Western Union.” You can’t send a telegram now, but there’s email. It’s the eloquence of the box office that speaks loudest of all.


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