- - Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Hollywood’s interaction with faith over the generations has been very fluid. In the middle of the past century, there was a level of reverence and a desire to apply the proper level of splendor to stories of a biblical scope. The counterculture 1960s began the departure for studios, giving way to outright opposition toward faith as the independent film mindset of the 1970s.

From then on, dismissal or contempt for faith-based fare was the entertainment industry standard. The Catholic Church frequently issued rebuttals and calls for boycotts towards particular titles that were antagonistic to either the Church or faith in general. Hollywood would shrug with a smug self-satisfaction and generate more provocative fare. But then a realization came to the studios.

By openly displaying apathy for the religious demographic, they subtly were telling them to not attend movies in general. In telling these swaths of the devout “your kind is not welcome,” they were also telling them they did not care about their money — and that is not the Hollywood manner. In the past generation, it dawned on some in the industry they were repelling potential ticket buyers. Slowly a change came to the landscape, and Hollywood became led to appreciate the religious audience — ironically, due to greed.

Mel Gibson tapped the vein of religious ticket buyers. When studios would not fund his celluloid testament to Christ, he decided to pay for it himself, reaping millions of dollars as a result. In the wake, small studios began offering up independent religion-themed pictures. Self-financed and released through a cobbled list of small distributors, they found an audience and, more surprisingly, profitability.

Soon the majors began looking into this burgeoning market. A successful formula of releasing smaller, faith-focused titles was hit upon. Studios now even have marketing departments that seek out churches as promotional targets, and offer pastors with messaging on how their films can be woven into sermons or Bible study classes.

So today Hollywood has a more open mindset toward the religious ticket buying. That is because they have been shown a path toward profitability. Ironic that it took one of the Seven Deadly Sins to bring them over to the side of faith.

Brad Slager has covered the business and marketing side of the entertainment industry for outlets such as The Federalist, MovieLine and Mediaite. His knowledge of bad films is far more extensive, and far more ignored.

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