Kevin Sorbo: Wake Up, Hollywood ... It's Called Show 'Business'
Over and over, we are told that Hollywood's only agenda is making money. It's not about ideology or social engineering, it's about chasing the bucks.
There's no doubt that Hollywood love things that make money--it just doesn't love everything that makes money. But that may be changing.
Take, for example, the independent film God's Not Dead, starring Kevin Sorbo (Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys) as an atheist professor who challenges a Christian student (Shane Harper) to prove the existence of God or fail the course.
Released to theaters on March 21 by Pure Flix Entertainment, the film--now available on DVD, DVD/Blu-Ray combo, digital HD and Amazon Prime Instant Video--cost about $2 million to make. As of June 18, the indie film garnered a worldwide total box office of $62 million.
Stack that up with the worldwide $100 million earned by Heaven is for Real ($12 million budget), about a little boy who glimpses Heaven and returns to tell the tale; the $10.5 million made by the Christian family movie Mom's Night Out ($4.5 million budget); and the worldwide $67.8 million made by Son of God, the theatrical cut of the New Testament version of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey's megahit History Channel miniseries The Bible (under $22 million for the entire 10 hours), you may understand why Tinseltown could be getting sweet on God-centric themes.
Even Noah, with a $125 million budget, has grossed almost $360 million worldwide, despite managing to find a place in the Biblical tale for giant rock people and an anachronistic ecological bent.
On the TV side, there's History Channel's reality show Duck Dynasty, focusing on a duck-call-making Louisiana clan fond of praying over dinners together. While seeing a decline in its once-astronomical ratings as it entered its sixth season earlier this year--in the wake of a dust-up over Bible-based remarks patriarch Phil Robertson made in a magazine interview--its ratings are still very good for advertiser-based cable (and no advertisers pulled out).
In the last couple of decades, likely influenced by anti-religious individuals within Hollywood and pressure from activist groups, the entertainment industry has become extremely nervous about anything that references God, and especially Christianity, in a positive way.
But the numbers indicate that there's a huge underserved audience out there willing to patronize movies and TV shows whose messages interest them, and that serving this audience can be very profitable.
So film and TV moguls have to ask themselves, do I just want to please myself and my neighbors on the Upper East Side or in the Hollywood Hills, or do I want to make money (and actually serve that oft-mentioned goal of diversity)?
"Hollywood has its agenda," says Sorbo, "and that's fine, but wake up, it's called show business. Why don't you guys get on the bandwagon and start making some product that people want to see and not just something that serves your own agenda?
"It's a crazy message they're sending. It's fine, but it there should be balance at least."
Sorbo also thinks it's time that people of faith started to realize that if they flex their financial muscle, Hollywood, facing the digital disruption that has already upended the music industry, may have to listen.
"I hope we're reaching a tipping point," he says. "I thought, years ago, that we have to reach a tipping point where the majority of people in this country stand up and say, 'Enough is enough. This is ridiculous.' Because, if they stop going to movies that are crap, if they stop watching television shows that don't promote the values they want their kids to grow up with, Hollywood will go out of business.
"It's absolutely crazy what's going on in this country. Hollywood, if they claim to be tolerant, then be tolerant."
Sorbo is currently looking to make opportunities to get back into television.
"We've got two series we're developing," he says. "Actually, one we sold to the Hallmark Channel, which is great. They came late to the game with original one-hour shows, but they're doing it now. It's in the vein of 'Moonlighting.' It's called Can't Get Arrested, a romantic comedy and a very funny script. It's from the producers of 'Soul Surfer,' whom I shot a movie with.
"We're not going to shoot [the pilot] now until January."
The other project is even closer to Sorbo's heart.
"My wife came up with the idea," he says. "We hired a showrunner, and of all people, I'm back together full-circle with my old bosses from Hercules, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. We started pitching it a week and a half ago.
"It's called Miracle Man. It's heavy-duty. My wife and I sat and talked about this, when we saw all these great things happening to these small independent movies, showing that there's a huge underserved market out there, and we said, 'Let's come up with something that we can put on TV again.'
"You had 7th Heaven, you had Highway to Heaven, and you had Touched by an Angel. They all did eight years or more, and they were huge hits. Nothing like that's been on TV for over a decade now, so we came up with this idea. It's more like Punched by an Angel. It's not as sappy as Touched by an Angel. It's pretty heavy-duty, and quite frankly, I hope it's the one that gets picked up, because I think that it will have a long run."
Similar to him playing the atheist character in God's Not Dead, Sorbo, an outspoken conservative and Christian, wants to again play against type in Miracle Man.
"We're getting very good response with Miracle Man," he says, "but, once again, 'Oooh, it deals with God.' But we gave it a very strong edge. My character is an agnostic. He's a guy who's got to go through his own journey. We didn't want to make him an atheist. We wanted to make him a guy who says, 'There might be, there might not be, I don't know. Things are happening around me, and I don't quite get it.'
"It's his journey to see what happens with him."