World Congress of Families IX: The number of Christian films is growing in Hollywood

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Actor and founder of Pureflix David A. R. White discusses Christian films in Hollywood with an audience member. Redemptive content in Hollywood films increases consistently. (Kjersten Johnson)
Actor and founder of Pureflix David A. R. White discusses Christian films in Hollywood with an audience member. Redemptive content in Hollywood films increases consistently. (Kjersten Johnson)

Strategies to boost the number of family and Christian films in Hollywood was the focus of a session held on Wednesday, Oct. 28, as part of the World Congress of Families IX. The discussion focused on the number of films available and how to continue encouraging producers to create them.

Ted Baehr, chairman of Christian Film and Television Commission and publisher of MovieGuide, was the chair of the forum. Movie producers and celebrities Gerald Molen, David White and Michael Scott also spoke.

Baehr opened the forum with his personal story of finding Christianity. His mother passed away when Baehr was young and he was raised by his actor father. One day a woman told him she was going to take on the role of his mother and challenged him to read the Bible. “I read the Bible and God told me that I needed it,” Baehr said.

This event changed Baehr’s life as he adopted Christianity and decided to use his life as a force for good.

Baehr presented statistics on movie-goers and the availability of Christian and family films. In the 1960s, the church film office closed and weekly theater attendance dropped from 44 million people weekly in 1965 to 17 million people weekly in 1969.

Even today, strong redemptive content does better than very strong negative content year after year. And that redemptive content is steadily increasing. In 1991, only 10 percent of films contained redemptive content. This jumped to 45 percent in 2004 and 60 percent in 2014.

Molen, producer of “Schindler’s List” and “Jurassic Park,” believes 2007 was the major turning point for more redemptive content in films. In 2007, Barack Obama was running for president. As a result, there was a “major change in the the progressive movement because it got really, really strong in our country,” Molen said.

Next year, faith-based films such as “Apostle Paul” will be released almost week after week, Baehr said. Evidently, Hollywood is continuing to increase its redemptive content.

Gerald Molen is the producer of “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List.” Molen discussed the presence of Christian and family films in Hollywood at a forum on Oct. 28. (Kjersten Johnson)

“Kids are watching media 11 hours a day,” said Michael Scott, CEO and founder of Pureflix Entertainment and “God’s Not Dead” producer. “What are they going to consume? Hollywood follows the money, so wherever the money’s at that’s where they’re headed.”

To fully redeem Hollywood, Baehr said, kids need to be taught to be media wise. “Whatever you write and produce determines the next generation,” he said.

Family and Christian films in Hollywood can both continue and increase as viewers make a special effort to attend the films. A preview of “God’s Not Dead II” will be shown Wednesday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom with a Q&A to follow, and a preview of “The Young Messiah” will be shown Thursday, Oct. 29.

“These theaters have to be full,” Molen said, referring to showings both at this week’s event and in theaters around the world. “You have to show up and show off.”

To supplement Hollywood’s efforts, other options are available. “Pureflix is like Netflix, but faith and family content,” said actor David White, who is also the founder of Pureflix Entertainment and producer of “God’s Not Dead.”

“How do you make a movie that’s compelling and will ultimately draw them to a closer relationship with Jesus Christ?” White said. “God’s Not Dead” is currently ranked seventh in grossing Christian films.

Paige Petersen is a senior from Henderson, Nevada. She attends BYU-Idaho where she is a marriage and family studies major. About 90 students from the major traveled to Salt Lake City for the World Congress of Families IX.

“I think it’s cool how the media can affect the way society can view families and the support that it gets,” Petersen said. “I think it’s important to advocate families.”

Salt Lake resident Sharon Schaefermeyer attended the event with her husband, who used to work in media. “There’s a real need for this,” she said. “I think that the positive information that they were able to share was encouraging. I just think there’s such a need for it and it’s nice to see that there is hope.”

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