AlterNet’s Jonathan Jones probes Hollywood’s post-“Passion” fetish for Christian-oriented films and challenges the assumption that religious movies will rake in the cash by pandering to an attention-starved audience.
This Christmas, Christ is back. And this time, you can experience the story of his birth as never before. That’s the message foretold in New Line Cinema’s $36-million film, “The Nativity Story,” which opened Dec. 1 in more than 3,000 cinemas worldwide. Although the film is supposed to remind us about the humble beginnings of Jesus, the real message behind the most expensive religious movie ever backed by a major motion picture studio is that there are huge profits to be made by producing wholesome films with Christian themes.
Hollywood Buys Into Biblical Blockbusters
The Hollywood film industry has a long history of finding salvation in faith-based movies, which dates back to 1923, when Cecil DeMille produced the pious epic, “The Ten Commandments,” in part to help the Hollywood film industry redeem itself from charges of immorality.
But ever since Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” grossed more than $370 million in its first year, there has been renewed interest in producing movies that appeal to conservative Christians.
“Christians go to the moves just like everybody else,” said Charlie Nelson of Grace Hill Media in Valley Village, Calif., a public relations and marketing firm hired by New Line Cinema to market “The Nativity Story” to faith communities. “It’s just that now movie companies are making extra effort to tap into that segment.”