After the last election, a Newsweek poll found 67 percent of Americans believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, and 82 percent believe Jesus is the Son of God. Exit polls also found the No. 1 issue for Americans is "moral values." Hollywood declares (boasts?) it is delivering to the marketplace products demanded by the market. If that is so, why is the entertainment industry so incapable of looking at numbers like that as an opportunity to mine a vastly untapped source of riches?
The massive turnout for Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ" was supposed to change Hollywood's resistance, even hostility, to religion, but there isn't a whole lot of change in sight. The big Christian movie event of the year is the forthcoming release of "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe," a $150 million production based on the beloved Narnia series of C.S. Lewis.
The film was made by Walden Media, the family-friendly producer that recently delivered the acclaimed family movie "Because of Winn-Dixie." Walden's big-studio partner in the Narnia effort is Disney. They've hired Motive Entertainment, the same firm that promoted buzz for "The Passion" among Christians. The Narnia story, for the uninitiated, is the Passion story: Aslan the lion dies for the transgressions of others and is resurrected to defeat evil. Churches across the country are building enthusiasm for the movie, purported to be a much better cinematic presentation of the Lewis books than previous movie-making attempts.
So why are some at Disney so uncomfortable with the religious theme in their own movie, a message embraced by 82 percent of Americans?
"We believe we have not made a religious movie," Dennis Rice, Disney's senior vice president of publicity, told the Washington Times. "It's just a great piece of cinema that is true to a great piece of literature." The message in that is clear: Don't think this is a Christian film, because that is box-office death. Why not: "This is a fabulous story that also has a glorious message about faith and redemption"?