How To Please Christian Audiences (and Make Lots of Money)
By David Outten and Tom Snyder
Why did GOD’S NOT DEAD and HEAVEN IS FOR REAL do so well while MOM’S NIGHT OUT and THE IDENTICAL didn’t?
Could NOAH have been as big a hit as THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST?
Why did FIREPROOF and COURAGEOUS do better than THE SONG?
Dr. Ted Baehr, Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission has been meticulously studying audiences – and Christian audiences in particular – for more than 30 years. Movieguide® reviews, rates and analyses up to 300 or more movies a year, and sees and analyses more than 400 TV episodes and programs.
Dr. Baehr urges people wishing to make movies that will please the Christian audience to adhere to some basic wisdom.
First, make a good movie. Learn the craft. Make a movie with a strong premise, a well-structured story and high production values. Even if you have a small budget, getting the story right is not expensive. It just requires that you learn the craft before you make a movie. Modern equipment has radically lowered the cost of making a movie, but to make a good movie will always require mastery of the skills necessary to make a good movie.
Movieguide® is available to help filmmakers do just that by helping them understand the 122 criteria in the Report to the Entertainment Industry that increases the box office of an individual movie.
Second, provide high entertainment value.
Christians want entertainment value as much as any other audience. They want a movie with heart, humor, emotion, and conflict. Simply because a story has Christianity in it does doesn’t make it an entertaining movie. People want to see Pixar movies because Pixar spends years getting their stories right. Christians want movies they can tell other people, “You HAVE to see this.” Movieguide® has the tools to help increase the entertainment value of the movie and television program too.
Third, respect the Christian audience.
If you want Christians to come out in droves give them something that droves of Christians will love and tell their friends to see. DO NOT throw in stink bombs, like foul language or some wild new interpretation or perspective of the Bible and biblical history. Christians will NOT tell their family and friends they must go see a movie with anything in it that offends them.
Respecting the Christian audiences means also don’t insult them. NOAH, for example, received notoriety when Director Darren Aronofsky called his movie “the least biblical movie ever made.” Studio marketing departments practically begging Christians to fill theaters are not helped when filmmakers mock them for believing in Jesus Christ or the Bible.
Finally, don’t make medicine.
Christians don’t go to movies in droves to see what anyone thinks they “should” see. Like everyone else, they go see what they “want” to see. Christians don’t want to see an hour of prostitution in order to be shown that prostitutes can get saved. If your motive in making a movie is “people need to know this,” think carefully before you start spending any money at all.
We also love to encourage and teach filmmakers how to make successful movies.
Several times each year we offer a filmmaking seminar titled HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL). We want filmmakers to make lots of money and reach millions more people by making better movies. It pains us when Christian movies flop because of mistakes they could have hired us to fix.
Every year at the Annual Movieguide® Annual Faith & Values Awards Gala, Dr. Ted Baehr gives the Report to the Entertainment Industry. It always shows that Christian and general audience movies do better when they include faith and values and exclude sex and vulgarity. The presentation always ends with the invitation, “We’re here to help you.”
At Movieguide®, we absolutely want the major studios to make ultra successful movies that appeal to Christian audiences. We delight in giving awards to those in the industry, who make such movies. We gladly advise Hollywood professionals on how they can best reach Christians.
To help major filmmakers and Hollywood studios reach the 123 million people who go to church every week and even the 76% of Americans who call themselves Christian, we analyze scripts according to our Report to the Entertainment Industry to help spot things that will increase or reduce Christian audiences. We have over 50 years of combined film criticism experience, and have worked with writers and their scripts for nearly as long. Our analysis is based on classic dramatic principles of such smart people as Aristotle, Lejos Egri and the great dramatists, as well as 25 years of script analysis by Movieguide®’s Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry that reveals how to make blockbuster movies. We have found that, after we analyze a script, and it is revised according to our suggestions, then it becomes very saleable. Several scripts were bought within a week after being revised to meet our suggestions.
We want to help you write a script and then make a movie that’s structurally sound, very entertaining, morally responsible, and very marketable.
Over the years, we’ve developed a comprehensive method of analyzing movies that helps us pinpoint which movies will succeed and why.
In this regard, Adam Smith, the father of free market economics, broke with the tradition of his peers by not studying failure but by studying success. In the process, he came up with the most successful economic model ever!
To understand the economic viability of a movie, we look at its entertainment value and then beyond that at its content, worldview, philosophy, genre, themes, theology, characters, actors, and much, much more. Through its analysis, Movieguide® has constantly chosen 25 to 50 percent of the box office winners, whereas other groups and critics have consistently chosen zero to only eight percent of the winners.
MOVIEGUIDE® has found that movies coinciding with Christian values and Christian morality consistently outperform all other categories. Attached is our case study illustrating just that fact.
Now, we are bringing this comprehensive economic system to bear on film finance to help give a better experience to those who want to improve the entertainment industry.
Through our plot and script analysis tools, we will look at the various elements of a project to determine its probability for success.
Our comprehensive analysis of the box office in 2013 shows that positive, entertaining movies with very strong Christian, biblical and moral worldviews, content and values do best, but what about previous years?
Every year since 1996, our analysis of the box office of more than 150 different moral, theological and political categories has clearly shown that moviegoers prefer movies with pro-Christian, moral, family-friendly content. These movies usually do best at the box office.
Five and 10-year comparisons of very strong dominant worldviews proves that movies with very strong dominant worldviews that fit Movieguide®’s high moral and biblical Christian standards consistently make more money than those movies that violate those standards, especially movies that egregiously violate them.
In fact, movies with very strong Christian, biblical and/or moral worldviews (CCC and/or BBB) make about three times or more as much money as movies with Anti-Christian, unbiblical, immoral, or false worldviews.
An 18-year comparison of Christian, biblical and moral movies with movies containing very strong foul language, sex, violence, and nudity (LLL, SSS, VVV, NNN) shows that movies with dominant Christian, moral and/or biblical worldviews or content also usually do much better than movies with extreme sex, violence, nudity, profanity, or vulgarity. This is true 95 percent of the time, according to our statistics!
Furthermore, movies with very strong Christian and moral values and worldviews not only made the most money in 2013. They’ve also been making the most money ever since we began comparing dominant worldviews in 1999!
Clearly, MOVIEGUIDE® understands what audiences want by analyzing movies in a comprehensive way.
We try to look at each movie in the following ways:
- Aesthetically: By looking at the movie’s artistic value and by looking at how well the movie is made, just as other reviewers do.
- Emotively: By looking at how the movie captures and amuses the audience as entertainment and amusement.
- Semantically: By looking at the individual elements, such as words, nudity and incidents of violence, and their meanings, just as many parents do.
- Syntactically: By looking at how the movie’s elements come together and how the pieces and characters relate to each other, just as many teenagers and single adults do.
- Propositionally: By looking at what the movie is communicating, as summarized in the movie’s premise of the movie.
- Generically: By comparing it to other movies in its genre.
- Thematically: By looking at the themes present in the movie.
- Morally: By looking at the movie’s moral perspective and content.
- Biblically: By looking at the biblical perspective and biblical principles in the movie.
- Systematically: By looking at how the movie relates to other movies in various ways, including by screenwriter, producer, director, studio, nationality, style, film genre, etc.
- Economically: By looking at how the movie does at the box office and how its box office gross compares to other movies.
- Intellectually: By looking at how the movie fulfills its goals and premise.
- Sociologically: By looking at how the movie relates to culture and society.
- Politically: By looking at the movie’s political perspective.
- Cognitively: By looking at the age group to whom the movie is marketed, the age group for whom it is suitable, and how it will impact a particular age group.
- Psychologically: By looking at how the movie deals with the mind, the emotions, the will, and the soul.
- Historically: By looking at how accurate the movie is in presenting history.
- Sexually: By looking at how the movie deals with sex and sexual relationships.
- Philosophically: By looking at the movie’s philosophical perspective and worldview.
- Ontologically: By looking at how the movie deals with the nature of being.
- Epistemologically: By looking at how the movie deals with the nature of knowing.
- Spiritually: By looking at how the movie deals with God, faith and religion.
Whether you’re planning to make the next $200 million biblical epic or the next $500,000 Christian movie, we are here to help you. We want you to succeed. Please contact us and take advantage of our many years of research and experience. We would love to analyze your script, make your movie, and help you reach the broadest possible audience. It could be worth millions of dollars to you.
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