Hollywood Uplink – November 2005: The Road to Narnia: How We Got Here

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November 2005

        Issue: 14:11

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The Road to Narnia: How we got here
By Dick Rolfe, chairman – The Dove Foundation

There are many reasons why a movie like “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” is being made. Below are several entertainment industry milestones that set the stage for this auspicious movie release.

By 1933, the motion picture business was becoming a dominant part of the entertainment scene. Movie theaters were springing up all over America. Nearly everyone could afford a nickel to escape the stark realities of the depression for a couple of hours.  Movie moguls, most of whom were Jewish, were interested in reaching the largest segment of the American audience with uplifting moral stories translated onto the big screen in neighborhood theaters.

They watched with horror as pornographers began taking advantage of motion picture technology. Worried that the industry would become tainted by salacious material, the major film studio heads called on leaders in the Christian Church to help protect the integrity of mainstream movies.  By enlisting the dominant religious groups in America to set a standard for decency, film makers were assured of appealing to the masses without offending anyone’s moral sensitivities. The Catholic Legion of Decency and Protestant Film Review Board were formed to review and award their seals of approval to movies before they could be released in local theaters.

By 1967, both of these Christian media watchdog organizations had closed their doors, leaving Hollywood to its own devices. In order to avoid Government regulation, the studios hired former LBJ aid, Jack Valenti to create a self-regulated ratings system. The Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA) introduced the first movie ratings (G, PG, and R).  It is important to note that, up to this time, there had never been a movie released that would have received an R-rating. Since then, nearly 60% of all movies have been rated “R.”

The 1990’s begins a paradigm shift of Biblical proportions…

Several changes began to take place in the early 90’s that pointed Hollywood to a long-ignored audience segment recently tagged as the “faith and family” market.

The Christian music business began to skyrocket, creating huge profits that got the attention of Hollywood entertainment executives. Secular music companies bought or launched Christian music labels.

1995 – Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins released their first episode of the “Left Behind” series of books that set records on every Best Seller list in publishing.

1999 –The Dove Foundation released its first Film Profitability Study, which proved that the average G-rated movie is 8 times more profitable than its R-rated counterpart.  Since then, R-rated movie production has dropped by 12% while G-rated film production increased by 38%. More recent statistics are included in the latest Dove study, released in June of this year.

2002 – Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California, published his record-breaking best seller, “The Purpose Driven Life,” which has sold over 30 million copies.

2004 – Movie star, Mel Gibson put $30 million of his own money into a film no-one in Hollywood wanted any part of.  Fortunately for Gibson, unfortunately for those who refused to invest, “The Passion of the Christ” holds the record as the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time, and it was the 3rd highest grossing movie of the year.

Hollywood gets religion…

These recent events set Hollywood film executives to searching for this Holy Grail, the “faith and family” audience. The search was not a response to a moral imperative, but in the interest of pure Capitalism.

Enter, Christian Billionaire, Philip Anschutz, a quiet, humble Denver businessman and founder of Qwest Communications. He also owns oil fields, railroad lines, the country’s finest collection of western art, a network of farms and cattle ranches, five Major League Soccer franchises, 20% of the movie screens in America, two movie production companies and two daily newspapers.   

Mr. Anschutz became concerned about the power that media has to influence people, especially children. He pledged his time and resources to help clean up entertainment content by becoming a major player in both distribution (He owns Regal Entertainment, the country’s largest chain of movie theaters) and film production (He purchased Walden Media and Bristol Bay Productions. Both produce only G, PG or PG-13 films).

Walden Media is led by two former college roommates from Tufts University. Micheal Flaherty started out as a passionate education reformer. He dedicated his efforts to working with inner city school children, and was hailed by the Boston Globe as an “entrepreneur in education.”  Micheal’s college buddy, Cary Granat worked his way up in the entertainment industry to become president of Miramax/Dimension Films. Together, they combined their talents and started Walden Media with the purpose of creating entertainment that inspires the imagination of children and gets them excited about learning.

So far Walden Media has produced successful Dove-approved films like “Holes” and “Because of Winn Dixie.” They are currently in production on two children’s favorites, “Charlotte’s Web” and “Hoot.”

Families are waiting with great anticipation for December 9th when the movie version of C.S. Lewis’ worldwide best seller, “Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” will be released nationwide. This fantasy epic is Walden’s next big thing, taking them one step further toward their corporate goal. If this movie is successful, there are six more Narnia books waiting to be brought to life on the big screen.

While The Dove Foundation has not yet reviewed this movie, we have received several assurances that it may well fit within our “Family Approved” criteria. Three concerns have been expressed by most people I’ve talked with ever since it was announced that the movie was being made.

  1. Who is in charge of the creative portrayals in the film?

Answer: Walden Media has total creative control over the content. Disney is focused strictly on distribution and marketing of the finished film.

  1. Is the movie true to the book?

Answer: Douglas Gresham, stepson of C. S. Lewis, after seeing a rough cut of the film, said, “Jack [Lewis] generally didn’t like movie versions of books, but he would definitely approve of this faithful translation.”

  1. What is the level of violence?

Answer: Representatives from both Walden and Disney said “the movie will be released with a PG rating.” This is a good indication that the story will be intense, just as it is in the book, but not graphically violent. The books were written for children 8 years of age and older. Chances are the movie will also be appropriate for that age group.

We are hopeful that we can reward Walden Media for their hard work on “The Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” with a Dove Seal of approval. Watch our website www.dove.org. We will post the review as soon as we’ve seen the entire movie.

In the meantime, take time to read, or re-read the book. It’s a glorious adventure with a wonderful allegory of unconditional love.


The Dove Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.  Our mission is to encourage and promote the creation, production, distribution and consumption of wholesome family entertainment.  We are supported primarily by donations from families such as yours who want to move Hollywood in a more family-friendly direction.  All donations are tax deductible.
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