Even at my age, Hollywood and some of its liberal old guard never cease to amaze and yes, on occasion, even offend me.
Recently, Variety featured an article by Peter Bart criticizing the producer of the recently released film Son of God, Mark Burnett, without a mention of the other producer and driving force behind the film, Roma Downey. We can only hope this omission wasn’t because she is a woman, but to this reader anyway, attacking her husband and not mentioning her seemed a bit sexist.
Mr. Bart went on to criticize the very idea of people of faith organizing to bring other like-minded people to the movies to exhibit their dedication to their faith and interest in all things spiritual.
Mr. Bart and I come from the same generation. We are often referred to as senior citizens, but where we differ is that he is a typical Hollywood progressive, while I am more of a traditionalist or conservative. I also strongly believe in a Deity so I welcome films from Hollywood that tell visual stories of faith, Bible-based stories and stories that reinforce our faith and family commitments and a reverence for America as the greatest nation on earth.
As we all know, Hollywood is geared towards Monday morning box office reports, and when a film like Son of God experiences strong numbers from churchgoers it raises concerns among people like Bart at the prospect of an army of previously disenfranchised Americans beginning to “vote” at the box office. But instead of welcoming this influx of new “customers,” Mr. Bart et al seem upset and resort to using Burnett and “spiritual bullying” in the same sentence.
But storytelling is still king and the millions of people starving for wholesome, religious, patriotic and family-oriented films are eager to go to the theater and have their values affirmed. If Mr. Bart does his homework he’ll realize that there is a box office bonanza to be had by making movies that the American heartland truly cares about.The American people have been awakened from their media slumber and are becoming engaged with and demanding product from Hollywood that meets their expectations.
Son of God raked in a respectable $26 million in its first week and other movies that affirm the values of the heartland like Heaven Is for Real and Persecuted are either here or are on the horizon. And on July 4th, the release of the much-anticipated America film will present another challenge for Mr. Bart when many Americans who don’t typically go to the movies celebrate a film that reinforces a patriotic view of our country which is so often maligned in Hollywood movies.
For far too long the ruling class in Hollywood has had its way in determining what movies get made and seen. In this new era, films with traditionalist values and themes of faith and love for country will succeed if they are brought faithfully to the screen in a manner that doesn’t insult the values of the heartland. And studio executives will have to decide whether they are in the business of making money as they affirm those values or losing in order to advance a narrow political agenda shared by their friends.
Castigating people of faith like Burnett and Downey for organizing fans is the entertainment world’s equivalent of voter suppression in the political world. The notion that fans are being encouraged to organize and attend movies en masse should be celebrated by all in Hollywood for it means that more Americans will be buying tickets and enjoying great films-and all of us whatever our political or religious beliefs should rejoice at that prospect.
Gerald R. Molen is an Academy-award winning producer. His next film America is released in theaters July 4th