- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2015

The liberal hold on Hollywood is loosening. A persistent conservative mindset is emerging in the entertainment industry, replacing glitter with some red, white and blue as studios discover that Americans like America, and they pine for fare that uplifts the nation.

Money talks. Consider that “American Sniper” has made $428 million at the box office since it opened six weeks ago, largely credited to a devoted heartland audience.

A new breed of stars has claimed some turf. Plainspoken “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson was candid about his belief in traditional values and stood firm in the aftermath, despite a media firestorm. On Friday he received the “Andrew Breitbart Defender of the First Amendment Award,” at the Conservative Political Action Conference, underway through Saturday near the nation’s capital. Mr. Robertson brought his Bible to the podium with him - one held together by duct tape and obviously much prized, and much used. He advised the jubilant audience to “always carry your Bible with you - and your woman,” then delivered a speech reminding them that the Creator was very much a part of the nation’s founding.

Mr. Robertson is still standing by his convictions.

“I’m honored to receive the award from Citizens United, and Breitbart. No longer can we be bound by the chains of political correctness. Liberty is birthed from the mouth of truth. When one does not have the freedom to speak out loud what one believes, freedom is dead,” he told The Washington Times.

Phil and his family have been that breath of fresh air Hollywood desperately needed,” said Stephen Bannon, chairman of the Breitbart News Network. “They are taking their faith and conservative politics mainstream. Phil has the guts to do and say what most politicians in Washington won’t. You must adhere to your conservative beliefs, all of them, and never surrender or compromise them for anyone.”

For years, Friends of Abe — a discreet but burgeoning group of often famous Hollywood conservatives and Republicans — has held their ground. Founded by actor Gary Sinese and screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd in 2004, it has an estimated membership of 2,000 and continues to meet under very private circumstances, flaunting no public agenda but drawing significant GOP names to their events. House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Ted Cruz, Justice Antonin Scalia, Rep. Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum and Mark Levin are among them.

Tinseltown also has a Republican heartland of its own.

“I believe conservatives in and out of Hollywood are energized and optimistic,” said Mell Flynn, president of the Hollywood Congress of Republicans, a grass-roots political organization with ties to the California Republican Party, and a clear understanding of what’s at stake.

“We are built upon the shared Republican principles of individual liberty, genuine economic opportunities and leadership in world freedom. Now that we have control of Congress, it will give us a bit more leverage in trying to get this country back on a good and productive path. We have a number of great leaders who will potentially run in 2016. With all that is going on in the world today, we need strong leadership to protect our nation and it’s allies,” added Ms. Flynn. “I truly believe that type of leadership will only be found in the GOP.”

Still, Hollywood will continue to push a liberal agenda predicts Ben Shapiro, author of five books including “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV,” and “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America”. He is also editor-in-chief of Truth Revolt, a media watchdog.

“What we saw at the Oscars is what we’re going to get. Every so often we see a movie that breaks out of the mold, but overall, you won’t see any uptick in right-leaning content until the industry collapses, as the means of distribution changes,” Mr. Shapiro said.

He sees some variations and nuances these days, though. Libertarian values are not such a no-no, for example. Social conservatism is what gets the studios very nervous.

“You won’t see socially conservative content openly in Hollywood. You can’t touch the sanctity of single motherhood and gay marriage, though Hollywood still struggles to make abortion palatable,” Mr. Shapiro said.

Some forge ahead, in the meantime.

“I realize that many Americans believe Hollywood completely tows the line of a certain ideology and while that was clearly the case in the past, I’m finding that the executives I work with today who are 50 and younger are far less concerned about advancing an ideology, if they even have one — and are more open to traditionalist stories so long as they can turn a profit,” said Mark Joseph, producer of “Max Rose”, “Tolkien & Lewis” and “Reagan,” a feature film now in development.

“This is figuratively and literally true,” Mr. Josepth continued. “I know two generations of top Hollywood executives — the father is very ideological and with the son, it never even comes up. He’s in the movie business, not in the business of making one political side win.”

Other changes are underway. According to Ted Baehr, founder and chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission, the number of films with faith and values-based content has increased from only one or two a year to more than 65. According to “MovieGuide,” the group’s industry publication, of the 282 movies released in 2014 that made $1 million or more at the box office, movies with conservative content made $71.49 million each. Those with predominately liberal content garnered $22.48 million each.

“Pro-family films with strong morals and good values have a deep resonance with the American public,” observed Mr. Baehr.

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