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Clark Kent: Coming to a Pulpit Near You?
Warner Bros. Targets Churches with Latest MAN OF STEEL Marketing Strategy.
By Natalie Fertig, Staff Writer
Superman flies into theaters today, but you might also see him in a pulpit near you on Sunday morning.
Around the country, many pastors are being asked to download or create sermons based on the Superman re-boot, MAN OF STEEL. While this partnership between film studios and churches is nothing new, all eyes are watching to see if the faith & family audience will respond with box office sales. Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide’s publisher, has direct experience with this kind of marketing. He told Movieguide® that as President of the Church Organization that produced the TV movie, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE on CBS in 1980, he undertook extensive church marketing. In that case, the product fit the church market, so the TV special won an Emmy Award and had 37 million viewers.
Warners Brothers’ attempt at church marketing is the website, ManofSteelResources.com. The site is a partnership between Warner Brothers and MinistryResources.org. The sermon, titled “Jesus – The Original Superhero” is available for download to pastors who are members of the website. There is even an option for pastors to screen the movie prior to opening weekend.
Warner Bros. is also providing free family resources through the website. The “Father’s Day Conversation Guide,” for example, encourages dads to “round up the kids and take them to see MAN OF STEEL (PG-13),” and then use the guide for family discussion after the movie. All this makes it easy to forget that the film is really is PG-13, with quite a bit of unacceptable content for children.
In an age when the institutions of church and family are continually under fire, Warner Bros. is purposefully pursuing them. The question that many within the Church – and outside of it – will ask is “Why?”
Superman has a steady rooting in Judeo-Christian values. The original writers of Superman were of Jewish decent, and biblical values like unconditional love, sacrifice, and good triumphing over evil are found in the comics. MAN OF STEEL screenwriter David S. Goyer recently told Tampa Bay News that biblical parallels are “baked into the DNA of the character.”
Despite all this, MAN OF STEEL’s PG-13 rating has the potential to keep families out of the movie theater. 2006’s “Superman Returns,” also rated PG-13, was a disappointment for Warner Brothers. Six years and a Batman trilogy later, Warner Bros needs a successful new DC comic book movie to keep up with Walt Disney’s Marvel franchise. All bets, and over $200 million, are on “Man of Steel.”
The family audience in this scenario could be MAN OF STEEL’s kryptonite. Will families turn out to see the most Christ-like of superheroes, or will the PG-13 rating keep them at home?
Whatever the reception of pulpit-based marketing, the success of a new Superman movie will mean many things for America. It shows the role that faith and family audiences have in the success of a tentpole summer film. It will also prove that well-made, epic movies can still succeed when infused heavily with biblical values. And, in the end, it will mean that the streets will be full – not of kids waving witches’ wands – but with young children imitating the most upstanding and biblical of all superheroes.