May 1, 2007
The pros and cons of Hollywood marketing more movies at Christians.
Films have been a popular subject on Out of Ur. That might seem odd for a blog devoted to issues facing church leaders. But in recent years films have become a testing ground for evangelical engagement with popular culture - a topic ripe with implications for our philosophy of ministry and approach to mission.
Our colleagues at Christianity Today Movies have a thought provoking article about the lucrative niche market for Christian films. Some of Hollywood's evangelical insiders gathered for a conference in Los Angeles recently to discuss the trend, and CT's Jeffery Overstreet was there. His full report can be read on the CT Movies site, but we've included a few excerpts below.
It is a complicated, difficult, exciting time for Christians involved in movies, TV, and digital media. As Hollywood rushes to capitalize on money to be made in the "faith market," each of the panel's experts has been caught up in the action.
The panelists agreed that Christians must overcome many challenges in order to make faith an acceptable topic in American art and entertainment again. But how should Christians go about that? And are these new "faith-based entertainment" divisions at major studios going to help us?
Some envision the Christian film industry following the trend of Christian music - an industry whose products are largely produced by Christians, for Christians.
Even if Christian filmmakers produce powerful movies, they face difficult choices about how to proceed. Should they allow their projects to be swept up by the new faith-based media divisions and marketed primarily to churchgoers? Or do they want to fight for a mainstream spotlight alongside Hollywood's heavy hitters?
The idea of marketing "faith-based" entertainment specifically to Christians has inspired a wave of new "niche market" ideas, many of which were discussed by conference guests. Some even spoke about the possibility of a new movie theater chain: separate cinemas for Christians, built within churches.
This would represent an interesting shift for Hollywood. Up to now big-budget productions have been marketed through churches as an outreach tool. Films like The Passion of the Christ, Narnia, and even The DaVinci Code were pushed on pastors with the promise that the church could leverage the film to advance its own mission to spread the good news. But films developed strictly for Christians - do we need that? Apparently we do.
"We live in a world of niche content," says Cooke. "We have outdoors channels, gay channels, women's channels, men's channels, sports channels, movie channels. There's no reason in the world that the Christian audience should not be a niche market. If people feel called to make stuff for an explicitly Christian audience, I say 'Go for it.'"
McKay sees value in entertainment designed specifically for the churchgoing audience. "There's still a market to write movies that only Christians will enjoy. And what's wrong with that? Christians need entertainment, too."
Read the rest of "Christians as a 'Niche' Market?" here, and share your thoughts with us.