- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 23, 2017

DENVER — If conservatives want any shot at influencing the culture, they need to go to the movies. Not buy DVDs. Pay for movie tickets to right-tilting feature films.

“We need your help. When a movie comes to the theaters, you have to go see it,” said Hollywood director and producer John Sullivan told the crowd at the Western Conservative Summit.

“We get two weeks in the theaters and then it’s gone,” he said. “The executives in Hollywood, we could sell 20 million DVDs and they wouldn’t care. We could have 100 million YouTube [views] and they wouldn’t care. We do $10 million at the box office, and they’re all going to pay attention.”

There’s a ripe opportunity with the anticipated February release of “Gosnell,” co-produced by Mr. Sullivan, which tells the story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s 2013 trial on murder charges stemming from the deaths of a female patient and newborn infants at his Philadelphia abortion clinic.

“We’re hoping to shake up Hollywood with that movie coming out,” Mr. Sullivan said.

He gave an advance screening Saturday of the “Gosnell” trailer, which plays like an episode of “Law & Order,” with both a police investigation and a courtroom drama.

“The fact that it’s a feature film carries more political and cultural weight than anything else,” Mr. Sullivan said.

Whether the right will turn out for a movie that takes on a hot-button issue like abortion remains to be seen, but conservatives already have shown they will support Hollywood releases that carry a pro-military message.

Patriotic audiences helped drive the box-office success of recent blockbusters like “American Sniper,” “Lone Survivor” and “Hacksaw Ridge.”

Even smaller Christian films are on a roll: Those topping $10 million in their opening weekends include “Heaven is for Real” ($22 million in 2014), “Son of God” ($25 million in 2014), “War Room” ($11 million in 2015), “Miracles from Heaven” ($14 million in 2016), and “The Shack” ($16 million in 2017), according to Box Office Mojo.

Conservative documentaries like “America” and “2016: Obama’s America,” both of which Mr. Sullivan directed with Dinesh D’Souza, have outperformed expectations, but in terms of impact, nothing beats a theatrical release.

“When you look at Hollywood in general — and I’m including the news, television, the movies and that — the driver for all this is theatrical films,” Mr. Sullivan said. “When you look at the magazine rack at your local grocery store, it’s going to have movie stars on it. That’s who’s mostly going to be there. And O.J.”

What’s missing are right-wing voices. “Really conservatives have abandoned this platform,” he said.

“I don’t know why it happened, I really don’t,” Mr. Sullivan said. “I’ve asked a lot of people. Some would say they were driven out of it, some would say it was natural attrition. But it’s something we have to go back to if we ever want to have any shot at having any point in the culture at all.”

The stakes are high. “Without that,” he said, “we might as well write everything off at this point in time. I hate to sound pessimistic in that way, but that’s the way it is.”

Starring Dean Cain and Earl Billings, “Gosnell” was produced with $3.2 million in crowdfunding in the largest fundraising effort for a film in Indiegogo history, but the film has struggle to find a distributor.

The “Gosnell” screenplay was written Irish filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney, the conservative team behind political documentaries like “FrackNation” who also wrote the 2017 bestseller “Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer.”

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