Pureflix Announces Date for God’s Not Dead 4

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Following the success of God’s Not Dead, which was 2014’s highest grossing independent film, God’s Not Dead 2 which was the highest grossing independent religious sequel of 2016, and God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness which is the first Christian movie of the year to have seven words in the title, Christian film studio Pure Flix has announced a May 2018 return to the God’s Not Dead cinematic universe with a fourth installment of the franchise.

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Michael Scott addresses the faith-based film reporters.

According to Pure Flix founding partner Michael Scott, Pastor Dave: A God’s Not Dead Story will serve as a prequel reboot to the wildly successful faith-based film franchise, and was secretly being filmed at the same time as God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness so that it would be ready for a summer 2018 release.

“Audiences have continued to show support and interest in the GOD’S NOT DEAD films and their relatable characters.” Scott told a roomful of excited faith-based film reporters while gesturing at a small white board. “The increasingly diminishing success of these films shows that they’re hungry for more… and to us that meant PREQUEL!”

Pure Flix released the official synopsis of the new film on Easter morning at a special sunrise press conference at Pure Flix’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. The event was hosted by Scott and Pure Flix co-founder and perennial star David A.R. (pronounced “ARGH”) White. Read it below:

Journey to an Arkansas of the early 1990’s in Pastor Dave: A God’s Not Dead Story, an all-new faith-based adventure with the most beloved pastor in the galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within Arkansas’ dark and dangerous university underworld, Dave meets his mighty future best friend Jude and encounters the notorious atheist Jeffrey Radisson, in a journey that will set the course of one of the God’s Not Dead saga’s most unlikely heroes.

“This movie will be full of Christian pop culture references and nostalgia,” ARGH White told reporters as light from the rising sun streamed through the Pure Flix logo-emblazoned stained glass windows. “We’ve expended great resources to be able to secure the rights to a number of hit CCM acts from the 90’s, including the complete libraries of Stryper, Twila, Petra, Sandi Patti, White Heart, and Billy Sprague. All to help give the film an authentic 90’s Christian subculture vibe.”

When asked who would play the character of the much younger Pastor Dave (played by White in the movies), White simply grinned and said that it would be someone amazing. After being pressed a tiny bit more, White admitted that Pure Flix had recently invested in state-of-the-art motion capture technology that would enable him to play a young Pastor Dave himself.

“I’ve been playing this character for almost half a decade, so really, who knows him better?” White asked, slamming his hand on the desk for emphasis. “And the technology will make me look exactly like I looked when I first broke into the business back in the 1990’s.”

When asked if Kevin Sorbo and Benjamin Onyango would also be reprising their roles, White explained that he would be using the mocap technology to also play the roles of Jude and a young professor Radisson, as well as directing the film. He would also be playing most of the supporting roles.

To emphasize his point, White revealed an exclusive video clip of the upcoming film in which he played all the actors seen on screen.

While not much else is known about the film, White documented his experience making Pastor Dave: A God’s Not Dead Story on Twitter and Instagram throughout production — with everything from set photos to shots of his morning coffee. Thimblerig’s Ark has compiled all of his updates in one post, which you can view here.

Pastor Dave: A God’s Not Dead Story is set to open in 3,492 theaters on May 25, 2018.

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What Ministry Resources Are Available For “I Can Only Imagine”, “Paul”, and “God’s Not Dead 3”?

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Last weekend, the movie industry was collectively stunned when the Erwin Brother’s I Can Only Imagine sold $17 million dollars worth of seats (which roughly equals $1.5 billion in concessions) on a $7 million dollar budget, the 4th best opening for a faith-based film ever.

This weekend, Affirm Films’ new Christian-themed film, Paul, Apostle of Christ, will open, followed Easter weekend by Pure Flix’s third film in the God’s Not Dead franchise, God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness. That’s three major Christian-made films opening across the nation in a two week period, films that have been made both as cinematic experiences as well as ministry opportunities.

This is one of the things that sets the so-called “faith-based film” genre apart from most other genres – the idea that the films are meant to be more than just entertainment, but entertainment with spiritual ramifications: an opportunity to learn about the Christian faith in a non-threatening, neutral environment for those outside the faith, or a chance for spiritual growth for people who are already followers of Jesus Christ.

To illustrate what I mean by this, on the website for I Can Only Imagine, we’re told, “A gripping reminder of the power of forgiveness, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE beautifully illustrates that no one is ever too far from God’s love—or from an eternal home in Heaven.” Paul, Apostle of Christ has a page on it’s website where James Faulkner, who plays Paul in the film, reads portions of Scripture as a tool for Christians observing the season of Lent. The makers of God’s Not Dead 3: Light in the Darkness sayGOD’S NOT DEAD: A LIGHT IN DARKNESS is a powerful reminder that in all circumstances, we are called to be a light for Jesus to a world in desperate need of hope.”

And so Christian-made filmmakers will often develop ministry tools to encourage churches and individuals to take the film as more than just entertainment. This can be interpreted in at least three ways: one, that the filmmakers are genuinely wanting their films to make a spiritual impression on audiences; two, that the filmmakers recognize that ministry resources are another revenue stream and an encouragement to sell bulk tickets to entire churches; and three, a combination of the two.

The second option might seem cynical, but it can’t be disputed that filmmaking – even Christian-made filmmaking – is big business. It’s especially indisputable now that we are living in a time where three modestly budgeted Christian-made films featuring well known actors are being released in thousands of cinemas across the country in two weeks. These films represent hundreds of filmmaking professionals, thousands of hours of work, millions of dollars of investment, and so it makes sense that many decisions connected to these films are directly related to the potential big payoffs that will hopefully accompany them. But at the same time, they are also legitimate means for opening discussions about spiritual and theological issues, and this is where the ministry tools come into play.

What about the three movies being released now? What sorts of ministry resources are they offering? Are they giving away ministry resources, charging for them, or both?

cityonahillOn the I Can Only Imagine website, we are directed to a page that links to a few different things. The first is a link to City on a Hill’s website where the majority of ministry resources are offered, including: a small group study ($39.99); a journal ($14.99); a leader’s guide ($14.99); a church campaign kit ($79.99); and others. Back on the movie’s website, you can also purchase Bart Millard’s autobiography, A MercyMe album, an I Can Only Imagine children’s book, and a host of other things including a bunch of framed art.

The website doesn’t list any free ministry resources other than some free downloadables such as video clips and web banners.

paulA trip to the Paul, Apostle of Christ website finds a much smaller resource operation going on, with more resources being given away. Like I Can Only Imagine, Paul‘s website offers a few free downloadable social media items, but they also offer a couple of ministry resources including a reasonably comprehensive discussion guide and a more concise church leader packet, all available as free downloads.

Interestingly, you’ll find no church campaign kits advertised on the Paul website, but I did some digging around and found out that Outreach is selling one for $49.95.

Our final stop on the Christian-made movie tour takes us to Pure Flix’s God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness webpage and the first thing that struck me when visiting this website was that you can tell that Pure Flix has done this before.

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The main clue is the way they handle the campaign kit. It’s not just a simple Bible study or sermon guide selling from $49.45 to $79.99. Rather, it’s a kit to help your church buy out a theater and hold a premiere event experience complete with optional red carpet (extra $199) and backdrop for photos (extra $370 for a 9’8″x 7’2″ Jumbo Sleeve Banner). How much for this experience? Roughly $2,500. This is being billed as an experience where your church or organization would need to purchase at least 250 seats – essentially buying out the theater – and the cost would include many of the same things you get in a typical campaign kit.

Interestingly – and this is what sets Pure Flix apart from the other companies – you cannot purchase a church campaign kit without the theater buyout.

Here is a video they include explaining their strategy:

So your church’s options are two (A) buy out the theater and give away the tickets or (B) buy out the theater and charge your church members and guests to attend. Either way, Pure Flix is passing the costs down the line and insuring that they will sell out theaters. Is it a good ministry model? A good movie business model? Both?

Interestingly, on Pure Flix’s “premiere partner” FAQ page, they have this question and answer:

 

I Can Only Imagine Spurs Copycat Productions

imagesA Thimblerig’s Ark Exclusive

This weekend, The Erwin Brothers shocked all of Hollywood when their $7 million budgeted biopic about a Christian musician bowed to the tune of a $17 million take at the box office. The movie’s numbers stunned all the analysts who had predicted it would make a much more modest $1.5 million to $8 million, and unconfirmed reports say that at least two studio executives who passed on the project have resigned and started frozen yogurt shops in their respective hometowns.

Thimblerig’s Ark is fortunate enough to have eyes and ears all over Hollywood, and so we were not so shocked or stunned to find out that wheels were immediately set in motion all over Tinseltown this weekend in an attempt to capture faith-based lightning in a bottle, as they always seem to do when a movie shocks and stuns them. Who can forget what happened after the phenomenal success of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” back in 2002? Six months later we had to endure a spate of copycat movies trying to jump on the wedding bandwagon, with “My Somewhat Large Kazakh Wedding”, “My Huge and Dominating Somali Wedding”, and the surprisingly entertaining counter-programming attempt starring Mr. Bean,  “My Tiny Little Iberian Divorce.”

Our sources tell us that soon after the numbers started rolling in, representatives from all the major production companies started rolling out to Nashville to strike deals of their own with Christian songwriters in an attempt to have the next “I Can Only Imagine”. Yes, as we were tucked all snug in our beds with visions of Bart Millard dancing in our head, deals were being struck and IPs were being purchased all across Music City.

Here are just some of the movies that are reportedly now “in the works”:

1. “God of Wonders”  written by Marc Byrd and Steve Hindalong was reportedly purchased by representatives of Lucasfilm, who – our sources tell us – were impressed by the intergalactic themes of the song. Inspired by the partnership model set by the Erwin Brothers, George Lucas will reportedly co-direct with Steven Spielberg, and there’s talk that they will take a common last name “Lucberg” to complete the brother effect. Sources say that The Lucberg Brothers have north of $200M set aside for this big budget sci-fi worship project.

2. “God of this City” written by Chris Tomlin has been picked up by Christopher Nolan’s Syncopy Inc, with Nolan attached to direct. Our sources tell us that Nolan was attracted to the urban feel of the song, and imagines a biopic of Tomlin – shot entirely with practical effects – where we learn about the singer’s rise in the Christian music industry – having a string of number one hits, selling out coliseums and amphitheaters – while also learning Tomlin’s lesser known story of dressing as a dark avenging angel and fighting crime on the side. Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are rumored to be considering the part of Chris Tomlin.

3. “The Warrior Is A Child” by Twila Paris. There is little information about this collaboration, but sources tell us that helmer Patty Jenkins met with Paris for several hours at a back table in Nashville’s Frothy Monkey, pounding out details. One source suggested that certain words were overheard (“armor”, “sword”, “mystical beam of light”) that suggest that Jenkins is planning on taking Paris’s life story mythological, possibly piggybacking on the success of Wonder Woman to make the classic CCM artist’s story into a rousing action adventure film.

4. “Awesome God”, “Step by Step”, and “Screendoor on a Submarine” by Rich Mullins. A reboot trilogy planned around the life of the late singer/songwriter Rich Mullins is apparently in the works with helmer Michael Bay. Bay was said to have met with representatives of the Mullins estate in a double wide trailer outside of Wichita, Kansas where he laid out his plan to tell Mullin’s life story as an “explosive trilogy triptych” using each song as a framing device for each movie, the final movie being filmed entirely underwater in a screened-in submarine. Reportedly, the earlier low-budget indy film “Ragamuffin” will be decanonized and now officially referred to as a “Mullins Legend”.

5. “Friends” by Michael W. Smith. One of the most surprising acquisitions has to be Martin Scorcese’s purchase of Michael W. Smith’s evergreen song, celebrating the joy of Christian friendship. Does this signal a change of direction in the venerable director’s career? Is he moving away from serious dramatic films into the realm of lighthearted buddy movies? Or, will Scorsese take this staple of Christian high school graduations in a surprisingly dark direction? Only time will tell.

Christian Film Distributors, What Are You Doing To Your Audience?

This month, three big Christian-made films are being released within a two week period.

I Can Only Imagine, the new film by the Erwin Brothers (Woodlawn, Mom’s Night Out) about the life of singer Bart Millard (of Mercy Me fame) is being released on March 15.

Paul, Apostle of Christ, the spring’s annual sword and sandal Bible movie starring Jim Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) as Luke the apostle, is being released eight days later on March 23. [editor’s note: it was originally the 28th, but the date was moved up in February]

And God’s Not Dead 3: A Light in Darkness, the third film in the Pure Flix God’s Not Dead franchise, is being released a week later on March 30.

March 15, March 23, and March 30.

Guys, what are you doing to your audience?

First, it’s important to point out the key audience for these kinds of movies. While the people behind the movies probably hope that the films will be seen outside the Christian subculture, the truth is that all three were custom made for the Big Christian Audience. And if believers don’t turn up for any one of these films, then they will have miserable opening weekends, shortened in-cinema lives, and unfortunate box office returns.

So then why release them so closely together? If all three films are depending on the same audience, why put yourself into a position where you’re forcing that audience to choose between them?

Consider the average costs associated with going to see a film in 2018.

(JACOB AMMENTORP LUND/GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO)

According to Deadline, the average price of a movie ticket last year was about $9.00. Time tells us that the average price of babysitting is about $14.00/hour. And then if you want snacks at the movies, you’ll pay around $5.00 for the restrained purchase of a small drink and $7.00 for an equally restrained small popcorn.

Forget about a box of Junior Mints (another $4.00 if you don’t sneak it in after buying the same box at the Dollar Store for, yes, a dollar).

And then we have the miscellaneous costs. Transportation, parking, and dinner before the movie.

Now, let’s imagine a couple with children decides to support these films, but leave the kids at home. They will potentially spend about $80 each time they go, and that’s not including the miscellaneous expenses. So, if they support all three of these films, they will be spending close to $250 in the month of March in movies alone.

I don’t know any couples with children who budget that kind of money on movies.

Heck, you could pay $12.00 a month for unlimited movies on Netflix, including faith-based movies, all while staying in the comfort of your home eating snacks bought in bulk at Costco.

Samson-Malaysia-PosterAnd guys… all of this congestion… it’s so unnecessary! Looking over the calendar of faith-based films being released this year, there really aren’t that many on the docket. Samson, the last big faith-based release, came out in February, but there aren’t that many big budget releases happening this year aimed at Christian audiences.

And yet, we have these three, all jockeying for position, all wanting the same butts in the seats, and all bottle-necked around Easter.

The Christian faith’s most sacred time of year.

I can only imagine that this blog post will somehow find it’s way to the folks who make these sorts of decisions, and so I’m going to close by addressing them directly. And I’m going to call them Monica and Chandler to make it seem more personal, and because I’m currently binging old episodes of Friends.

Hi Monica and Chandler,

I really appreciate what you guys are trying to do by making and releasing films for Christian audiences. I’m grateful that you are exploring how to use the medium of film to promote the Gospel, and how you are improving the product you release with each passing year. Things really are getting better!

But you really need to do a better job thinking through this distribution thing next time. After all, it’s in your best interest to maximize the return on the investments made by the film’s backers, as well as to give your audience the chance to support the work that you do. It’s like if three studios released three superhero movies at the same time. None of them will do as well as they would have if there’d been some breathing room built into the releases. I don’t even work for Hollywood and I recognize this.

I have to confess – most of us don’t know or understand the mechanics of doing what you do, we just know the finished product. We don’t understand the politics behind the relationships of your companies, we just know that we want to watch what your company produces.

But if you claim to share our faith and share each other’s faith, then you need to work together in this sort of thing. Spread things out. Give us some breathing room. Allow us the chance to get our affairs in order between films. Even though we may not turn up to see your films every time like you’d like, you should really remove all the obstacles that would prevent us from doing so, should we want to.

It just makes sense.

Thank you!

Nate
(on behalf of the Big Christian Audience)

Thimblerig’s Picks, Oscars 2018

Oscars 90th Academy Awards

Last year, my predictions were absymal, with only 25% of my picks being correct. Let’s see if 2018 is a better year for Thimblerig’s Ark!

UPDATE: It was much better this year, with over half of my picks being correct, including all of the “big” pics. Not bad for a writing teacher living in China!

My original pics are in red, and the winner get their own little statuette. oscars2018

BEST PICTURE
Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
oscars2018The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

BEST ACTOR
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
oscars2018Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

BEST ACTRESS
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
oscars2018Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

BEST DIRECTOR
Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan
Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
Phantom Thread, Paul Thomas Anderson
oscars2018The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
oscars2018Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
oscars2018Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
oscars2018
Call Me By Your Name, James Ivory
The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Logan, Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin
Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani
oscars2018Get Out, Jordan Peele
Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig
The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

PRODUCTION DESIGN
Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049

Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
oscars2018The Shape of Water

CINEMATOGRAPHY
oscars2018Blade Runner 2049

Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water

COSTUME DESIGN
Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
oscars2018Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water
Victoria & Abdul

SOUND EDITING
Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049

oscars2018Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

SOUND MIXING
Baby Driver

Blade Runner 2049
oscars2018Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

ANIMATED SHORT FILM
oscars2018Dear Basketball

Garden Party
Lou
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
DeKalb Elementary
The Eleven O’Clock
My Nephew Emmett
oscars2018The Silent Child
Watu Wote/All of Us

ORIGINAL SCORE
Dunkirk

Phantom Thread
oscars2018The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

VISUAL EFFECTS
oscars2018Blade Runner 2049

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

FILM EDITING
Baby Driver
oscars2018Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
oscars2018
Darkest Hour
Victoria & Abdul

Wonder

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
oscars2018A Fantastic Woman, Chile
The Insult, Lebanon
Loveless, Russia
On Body and Soul, Hungary
The Square, Sweden

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Edith and Eddie
oscars2018Heaven Is A Traffic Jam on the 405
Heroin(e)
Knife Skills
Traffic Stop

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
oscars2018Icarus
Last Man in Aleppo
Strong Island

ORIGINAL SONG
“Mighty River,” Mudbound
“Mystery of Love,” Call Me By Your Name
oscars2018“Remember Me,” Coco
“Stand Up For Something,” Marshall
“This Is Me,” The Greatest Showman

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
The Boss Baby
The Breadwinner (Cartoon Saloon will finally win if there is any justice in the world…)
oscars2018Coco
Ferdinand
Loving Vincent

The 90th Academy Awards will air live on ABC on Sunday, March 4.

The Winners of the 26th Annual MovieGuide® Awards

Each year for the past 26 years, MovieGuide® has held an awards show where they award films and television shows using a completely different set of criteria than most awards shows. While shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globes highlight films and television programs based on their artistic merit, MovieGuide® looks at the “moral and spiritual principles as well as… production values… movies that tell a story that is both redemptive and inspiring to their audiences.

I’m pleased to announce the winners of the 25th Annual MovieGuide® Faith & Falues Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry (gasp) which was held this past weekend at the Hilton Los Angeles / Universal City. You can see the entire list of nominees here.

And the winners are:

The Jeannette Clift George Award for Furthering Entertainment with Faith & Values

Given to Rich Peluso of Affirm Films

The-Star-Australian-PosterEpiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring Movie of 2017

The Star

Epiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring Television Program of 2017

The Long Road Home: Black Sunday, Part 2

The Faith & Freedom Award for Movies

The Faith & Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values are awarded for entertainment value, for craftsmanship, and for creating programming that is uplifting, moral, insightful, compassionate, and that shows America and its people in a positive light.

The Promise

Best Movie for Families

The Boss Baby

Best 2017 Movies for Mature Audiences

Darkest Hour

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for Movies

John Corbett for “All Saints”

Christie Peters Grace Award Nominees for TV

Paul Sparks for “The Crown: Veregangenheit”

Interestingly, in the past, MovieGuide® has given awards to actors in both the male and female categories. This year, they only gave to performers, regardless of gender. This is an interesting and progressive step for MovieGuide®, although the result was that the women were shut out from receiving awards.

Secondly, this is only the second time an animated movie has won MovieGuide®’s big award, the Epiphany Prize. The last time was 1999’s Prince of Egypt.

And finally, I’ll end this post by asking the three big questions I ask each year:

Dear MovieGuide®:

Who decides the nominees?

Who decides who wins?

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, is it just a coincidence that your award statue is a crystal teddy bear and the founder of MovieGuide®’s name is Ted Baehr?

 

 

Today’s Ironic News: The MovieGuide Awards Get Attacked For Being Too Liberal

In what might just qualify as the most delicious irony of the year so far, the MovieGuide Awards Facebook page is being trolled by supposed far-right conservatives for being another liberal awards show.

To give a bit of background, MovieGuide is an organization that reviews Hollywood content from a conservative Christian, pro-family, pro-American, pro-Capitalist point of view. Every year for the past 25 years, they’ve hosted an awards show that gave out prizes to films like God’s Not Dead, War Room, Duck Dynasty, and The Passion of the Christ.

I mean, these guys are basically the Fox News of awards shows, and now they are being hammered by people making the following comments:

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I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here, but someone at Far Right HQ apparently didn’t get the memo, and now we’ve got a bad case of internet friendly fire. And considering how many of these comments are being made by people with few or no friends, it might just be some of that famous Russian trolling we’ve been hearing about.

Ah, don’t you just love 2018?

The 2017 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Nominations

MGA-Web-Banner_v4-1

Yes, it’s that magical time of the year, where the six or seven loyal readers of this blog interested in all things MovieGuide® get to find out what films from the past year Dr. Baehr and company have decided deserve their coveted accolades.

While I don’t know exactly how these movies are chosen, I do know that – as opposed to most film awards – the MovieGuide® Awards don’t necessarily have to do with quality filmmaking or acting (although some of the nominees are quality nominees). Rather, the award nominations are based on the films that Dr. B and company decide are best for the family👪 and for America🇺🇸, so for that – those of us who are a part of American🇺🇸 families👪 extend our most grateful gratitude towards the MovieGuide® offices, because – as the great Barry Manilow once crooned – we can’t smile without you, MG®.

So, without further ado, here are the movies that MovieGuide® considers the best of the best:

The 2017 MOVIEGUIDE® Awards Nominations 

Epiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring Movie of 2017

All Saints

Bitter Harvest

The Boss Baby

The Case for Christ

Let There Be Light

The Promise

The Star

Epiphany Prize to the Most Inspiring Television Program of 2017

Blue Bloods: Cutting Losses

The Crown: Veregangenheit

Last Man Standing: Take Me to Church

Little Big Shots: Tiny Dancer

The Long Road Home: Black Sunday, Part 2

Victoria: An Ordinary Woman and The Queen’s Husband

The Faith & Freedom Award for Movies

The Faith & Freedom Awards for Promoting Positive American Values are awarded for entertainment value, for craftsmanship, and for creating programming that is uplifting, moral, insightful, compassionate, and that shows America and its people in a positive light.

Bitter Harvest

The Boss Baby

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

The LEGO Batman Movie

The Promise

Wonder

Best Movie for Families

“The Boss Baby

Cars 3

The Case for Christ

Despicable Me 3

The Emoji Movie

Ferdinand

The LEGO Batman Movie

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Smurfs: The Lost Village

The Star

Best 2017 Movies for Mature Audiences

All Saints

Bitter Harvest

Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Justice League

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The Promise

Thor: Ragnarok

Wonder

Wonder Woman

Grace Award for Most Inspiring Performance for Movies

Erika Christensen for “The Case for Christ”

John Corbett for “All Saints”

Oscar Isaac for “The Promise”

Kevin Sorbo for “Let There Be Light”

Sam Sorbo for “Let There Be Light”

Terrence Stamp for “Bitter Harvest”

Dan Stevens for “The Man Who Invented Christmas”

Mike Vogel for “The Case for Christ”

Christie Peters Grace Award Nominees for TV

Tim Allen for “Last Man Standing: Take Me to Church”

Len Cariou for “Blue Bloods: Cutting Losses”

Jenna Coleman for “Victoria: An Ordinary Woman and The Queen’s Husband”

Bill Engvall for “Last Man Standing: Take Me to Church”

Claire Foy for “The Crown: Veregangenheit”

Steve Harvey for “Little Big Shots: Tiny Dancer”

Tom Hughes for “Victoria: An Ordinary Woman and The Queen’s Husband”

Michael Kelly for “The Long Road Home: Black Sunday, Part 2”

Tom Selleck for “Blue Bloods: Cutting Losses”

Paul Sparks for “The Crown: Veregangenheit”

The MovieGuide® Awards are scheduled for February 2, 2018 at the Universal Hilton Hotel. It’s usually televised a couple of weeks later, but right now that information is not available.

And if anyone from MovieGuide® happens to read this (and I write this every year, yet to hear back from the MovieGuide® folks) I’d love to find out a couple of things from you: first, what is the process for selecting the nominees and deciding the winners? Second, why don’t you air the show live?

 

The Star – Faithful Biblical Adaptation… Where’s the Faith-based Audience?

The year is 2014.

Hollywood wide-releases two films based on biblical accounts: Noah, and Exodus: Gods and Kings.

noah poster

The Big Christian Audience responds by complaining:

“Why does Hollywood hate us so much? Why can’t they make something that is safe for my whole family? Why can’t they respect the Bible as much as I respect the Bible?”

(See here, here, here, and here.)

 

 

Fast forward to 2017.

starDevon Franklin and the folks at Sony Animation wide release the animated nativity movie The Star on nearly 3,000 screens. When asked about the film, Franklin says:

“We really looked at the scriptures that everyone is familiar with, looked at all the gospels in order to pull the right information about the birth so that when we did the film, those moments would feel authentic…we really tried to honor scripture and that was the number one priority.”

And does the Big Christian Audience respond by running out on opening weekend to support this – a big Hollywood movie put out by a major studio working together with a bunch of Christians – a project that the filmmakers have gone out of their way to “honor scripture” in the making?

Nope.

The Star only made $10,000,000, giving it the dubious distinction as the worst opening on a Sony Animation film ever, and with a budget of around $20,000,000, I doubt that there were many uncorked bottles of champagne in the Sony offices.

People who study this sort of thing think that The Star will ultimately make money, as it could conceivably play up until Christmas (why didn’t they didn’t take advantage of the Christmas season and release it later, I’ll never know), and it will also make a lot of money in DVD sales, streaming, and other post-theater revenue areas. But, this less-than-stellar (see what I did there?) opening will probably not encourage the big studios to try this again any time soon.

The argument could be made that the Big Christian Audience is just fatigued. After all, The Star was released at the end of a trio of faith-based films (Same Kind of Different as Me, Let There Be Light), and that’s a lot of movies to support. Who’s got the time or money to see so many Christian movies? But this argument does not shine very bright. After all, neither of the other two films performed very well, especially when compared to 2015’s mega smash, War Room. It’s not like the Big Christian Audience emptied out its collective pockets to support Pureflix and Kevin Sorbo, so they got nothing left for the poor animated donkey.

They’re just not showing up.

Even when Hollywood tries to cater specifically to the wants of the Big Christian Audience by making a family movie in which the filmmakers go out of their way to be “largely faithful to the biblical narrative”, the Big Christian Audience just stays at home, apparently stewing over the secret agenda of Starbucks cups. Again. Didn’t we already have that hissy-fit?

That’s good and well. After all, the Big Christian Audience is under no obligation to support Christian-made films, any more than they’re under any obligation to support CCM artists, Christian radio, Christian politicians, or anything else labeled “Christian”, and if that were the end of it, there would be no reason to write this article.

But here’s the thing. In a few years, some big Hollywood studio will put out their own retelling of a biblical story. They’ll hire a non-Christian to direct it, and the story will be given a non-traditional treatment that won’t jive with the sensibilities of the Big Christian Audience.

And the BCA will immediately jump on their smart phones and share negative articles about the director’s controversial take on the subject. They’ll take to the social media airwaves to complain about it. They’ll threaten boycotts and cry “persecution” and play the victim, because this is what the BCA does.

They’ll lament, “Why does Hollywood hate us so much? Why can’t they make something that is safe for my whole family? Why can’t they respect the Bible as much as I respect the Bible?”

And a simple, animated donkey will trot into the picture and bray…

The-Star-Steven-Yeun-as-Bo-the-Donkey

A Response to Kevin Sorbo and “Let There Be Light”

Today, Kevin Sorbo made the following post to his Facebook page, in anticipation of his upcoming film, “Let There Be Light” which bows this weekend.

And although it’s doubtful that Mr. Sorbo will ever see this, I’d like to respond to some of the points that he made in his attempt to put bottoms in seats during those crucial opening days.

Mr. Sorbo writes:
“Hollywood used to make wonderful morally-steeped films, but those days are gone. Today, they seem to go out of their way specifically to show people of faith in a very negative light. The villain is often the priest, the cardinal, the pastor.”

There are two arguments here. One, that Hollywood doesn’t make “morally-steeped” films any more, and two, that Hollywood goes out of their way to show people of faith in a negative light.

I disagree with both arguments.

First, Hollywood’s movies are still often steeped in morals, which is why people are able to make lists like this http://www.imdb.com/list/ls003913565/ and this https://www.thetoptens.com/most-inspirational-movies/ and this https://afineparent.com/building-character/best-family-movies.html. Yes, Hollywood produces some pictures that you might qualify as amoral, but a glance at the box office results for last year will show you that movies that are fundamentally amoral just aren’t as profitable as stories with a moral bent. And Hollywood – in general – follows where the money leads.

Which brings us to Mr. Sorbo’s second argument. In his post, Mr. Sorbo writes that “the villain is often the priest, the cardinal, the pastor”? Granted, that does happen from time to time, and when it does, it stings. But I would argue that you can also find plenty of movies where clergy are shown in a positive light (Signs, Les Miserables, Calvary, Silence, to name just a few). Conversely, you can find many more movies where non-Christians (or people of no spoken faith) are the antagonists or the unsavory characters.

This idea that Christians in general are unfairly singled out for mocking by Hollywood just doesn’t hold water, at least not in film and television. Maybe at Hollywood cocktail parties, but not so much onscreen.

ltblMr. Sorbo wrote:
“But Hollywood forgets that the majority of Americans believe, and the great success of faith-based films is proof that people yearn for stories that give them an honest spiritual environment, that make them feel at home.”

Which is it? Has Hollywood forgotten that the majority of Americans believe, or – since The Passion of the Christ – have they been going out of their way to try and service that demographic, to a varying degree of success? It seems that this “great success” of faith based films is at least partly because Hollywood has been helping the films get made and/or distributed.

Remember? The studios follow the money.

In a strange twist, this statement also seems to indicate that faith-based films often aren’t really as evangelistic as folks would have you believe, even though filmmakers and marketers often promote them as such. After all, if faith-based films are really made for the people who want to be made to feel at home (i.e, “the choir”) – how does that reach people outside the sanctuary?

This is fine, of course. Why shouldn’t Christian audiences have movies made for them, just like any other demographic? But the people selling these films need to just be honest when talking about the film’s goals.

Now, hold the phone. Am I saying that the filmmakers don’t want their films to be effective outside the Christian subculture? No, of course not. I’m sure that many filmmakers (including the Sorbos) desperately want their films to be tools to help share the Gospel with people who haven’t heard. But the nature of the beast is that faith-based films are made and marketed with the pre-saved audience in mind. Any post-saved individuals who happen to see these films and be impacted are more like some kind of evangelical collateral damage.

Mr. Sorbo says:
“If Let There Be Light is a success, more independent financiers will be greatly encouraged to follow this path and we can have a true impact on a new wave of original faith-based stories coming to the screen. Wholesome entertainment we can all enjoy!”

Sure. If “Let There Be Light” does well, it’ll mean more potential resources for other similar movies in the future. “A rising tide raises all ships”, after all.

But this comment raises a different question for me.

Which is it – wholesome entertainment or faith-based entertaiment? Why does it have to be both? As has been said ad nauseum among people who talk about Christian filmmaking, the Bible is often not very wholesome. It’s full of murder and deceit and lust and jealousy and all kinds of human mistakes. Truly authentic movie versions of most Old Testament stories would be only viewed after the kids were put to bed.

It’s time we separate these concepts, and allow faith-based films be true-to-real-life stories that aren’t necessarily constrained by the “family friendly” label. I’m not advocating gratuitous films, but films that honestly explore the human condition in order to honestly explore our spiritual condition.

Heck, even “Let There Be Light” isn’t “wholesome entertainment we can all enjoy”… it’s rated PG-13!

Mr. Sorbo writes:
Please help us to make this film a great success. Tell all your family, bring your friends, come see this film and make a statement that you stand against the tidal wave of darkness, and films that substitute intelligence with brutality, wherein dehumanizing negativity gets glorified.

See, I don’t get this. Sure, Hollywood makes brutal, dehumanizing films. They also make beautiful, life-affirming films. How will supporting “Let There Be Light” stand against the former? It’s not like the audience for “Let There Be Light” would go see the latest slasher film otherwise.

Go see the film because you want to see the film. Go see the film because you like Kevin Sorbo and want to support his work. Go see the film because you want to see more faith-based films being made. But don’t go see the movie because you think you’re taking some sort of a stand by doing so. It’s as useless as changing your profile picture to reflect your support of the victims of the latest tragedy and even more useless than writing that your “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims.

Mr. Sorbo writes:
Hollywood wants to shut out movies like “Let There Be Light,” because it does not fit their message. Help us deliver a message to them that there is another way!

This will be a short response. Hollywood doesn’t care about message, they care about box office and bottom lines. They follow the money, remember?

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/24/business/media/hollywood-movies-christian-outreach.html

Mr. Sorbo writes:
The story told in our movie touches people so profoundly because everyone at some point says goodbye to a loved one. The eternal question this film answers is: Is it a farewell forever or just a good night, I will see you in the morning?

Now see? This is the first thing written in this entire post that comes close to making me want to see this movie. This is the heart and soul of this film and should be the entire selling point of this Facebook post, not all the us vs. them, ‘Hollywood hates us and doesn’t make anything good’ jazz that came before.

Mr. Sorbo, as you’re talking about this film, give us the heart and soul of your movie as the reason to see it. Let us see your passion for the story, for the characters, for the themes you explore. Motivate us to stand in line to see your artistic vision onscreen, and stop trying to pressure us into standing in line to support some sort of culture war cause.

If you do this, maybe more of us will turn up.

After all, lots of us loved Hercules.

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