Ted Baehr, whose Movieguide website and MOVIEGUIDE magazine have been carrying that message to a congregation of moviemakers for 14 years, tells WorldNetDaily that his message – and the facts – appear to be sinking in.
“Movies with a strong Christian content year after year do better at the box office,” he says, citing statistics compiled by the Christian Film & Television Commission, of which he’s chairman.
He says over the years those movies have turned in average income of about $160 million. Movies with less significant levels of moral leadership have averaged $60 million, and those at the opposite end of the scale from Christian values have averaged $12 million.
“We’ve hammered away at that for the last 14 years with our economic analysis of the box office,” he said.
But now the trends are shifting. He says the percentage of family-oriented films has risen from 6 percent in 1985 to 45 percent in 2002. And in 1985, 81 percent of the movies were rated R, but fewer than 45 percent of the movies released since 2001 have been R.
A major change surfaced Thursday when, as WorldNetDaily reported, Disney announced that its current cutback in staffing means the R-rating will virtually disappear from its products.
Walt Disney Pictures are released under the Pixar animation label, Disney and Touchstone. Mirimax used to be part but has since been separated to stand alone.
When Disney’s move was announced, confirmation came that many of the 650 staff cuts are being made in the Touchstone division, which used to produce the more mature-themed films.
Oren Aviv, newly appointed president of Disney production, says he believes a Disney film always should be something the entire family can enjoy.
“That to us has always defined a Disney movie, and that definitely hasn’t changed,” he says.
The return-to-family-fare move was made just as Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” turned in a weekend sales total of $135.6 million and the computer-animated “Cars” has been declared a hit.
The math isn’t complicated, Baehr says.
“They can make more money because it’s better to sell four tickets to a family than one ticket to a teen,” he says.
He does credit Hollywood with good intentions, citing what he perceives as a “real desire” to move in this direction.
His associate at Movieguide, David Outten, also noted yesterday that because of advances in technology, parents have a much larger range of options for entertainment these days.
Citing iPods and video downloads as a “shock wave” for the movie industry, he says on-demand services eventually could make any movie or program available in stores and online services. Already, more than 150 major television programs can be had on iTunes, he said.
That won’t mean the end of Hollywood, however, says Baehr. The top quality of audio and video that has been developed is expensive to record, and reports of the death of movies started surfacing about the time VHS tapes arrived, but it’s still around, he says.
“Just because you have a kitchen in your home doesn’t mean you don’t want to go out to a restaurant once in awhile,” he says.
The key will be to keep quality in the stories first, with other components such as character, dialogue, music and spectacle following.
He does caution that not every movie that has sound morals is good for children to see. The blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ” isn’t good for anyone under 12, while “Schindler’s List” has strong redemptive content but also horrific scenes, he says.
And just because it’s a children’s movie doesn’t mean it’s good for kids either. “Monster House,” he says, has very heavy spiritualist influences.
Baehr is a movie critic, educator, lecturer and author of “The Media-Wise Family.” He’s financed a number of feature films, produced many television and radio programs and now is working on several new movies. His MovieGuide site publishes reviews of current movies and features articles and interviews with top filmmakers and stars such as Steven Spielberg and Lindsay Lohan.