Dr. Ted Baehr is on a mission to bring the light of Jesus Christ to Hollywood — and his quest appears to be bearing fruit.
Baehr told The Western Journal in a recent interview that when he first launched Movieguide in 1985, the Christian-friendly film landscape was pretty bleak.
“When we started redeeming the media, there was one movie with positive Christian content — ‘The Trip to Bountiful’ — and last year, there were 62 percent,” he said.
The Californian himself made his mark in Tinseltown in 1980 when he was president of the organization that produced the animated television film “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.”
The production, based on the C.S. Lewis classic tale steeped in Christian metaphors, garnered 37 million viewers and won an Emmy Award.
That experience convinced Baehr — a self-described former 1960s “left-wing, pinko radical” turned follower of Christ — there was an audience for Christian-friendly entertainment that was being vastly underserved.
The former University of California at Berkeley media professor surmised the best means to win over studio heads to his conviction was to review their movies from a pro-faith, pro-family perspective, as well as compile an annual report of the most successful movies of the year by genre to prove his point.
Movieguide, which began in hard copy in the 1980s, moved online and now garners as many as 55 million page views per month, according to Baehr.
He told WJ his organization reviews every film that is released in more than 100 theaters.
One of the most recent offerings Baehr is excited about is the animated film “The Grinch.”
— Movieguide® (@movieguide) November 19, 2018
The summary for the PG-rated offering on the site reads, “‘The Grinch’ (2018) is a great movie about the true meaning of Christmas triumphing over alienation and materialism. It features powerfully loving parents and children, a joyous community of inspired Whos, and a terrific character arc for the Grinch, plus great Christmas carols and hymns focusing on Jesus Christ and His redemptive divinity, lordship and love.”
Baehr said until he watched the “The Grinch,” he felt “I Can Only Imagine” was the best film of the year in terms of Christian content. But now the Dr. Seuss-inspired story took the prize.
Movieguide reviews all films for potentially offensive content such as language, violence, sex and nudity to help inform families whether they want to support the production.
For example, Movieguide notes that “Creed II” contains “boxing violence, some foul language, and a bedroom scene,” but all the content earns “light” to “moderate” ratings on its scale.
The overall review: “‘Creed II’ is a solid movie. It should please the fans of the ‘Rocky’ series and its own predecessor. … ‘Creed II’ has a strong moral worldview with positive Christian elements that extols family. It has some strongly affecting scenes about family reconciliation and redemption, especially toward the end.”
. @creedmovie is all about learning to be a better man, but be mindful of some boxing violence and other mature scenes… https://t.co/7VB9btF5CO#Creed2 #Creed #Rocky #MovieReviews #InTheaters #KnowBeforeYouGo pic.twitter.com/8IcIf5RYzc
— Movieguide® (@movieguide) November 26, 2018
In the “2018 Movieguide Report to the Entertainment Industry” released early this year, the organization shows by the numbers why moviegoers flock to Christian and moral movies by a wide margin over offerings containing heavy sexual content, or extreme violence, nudity or vulgarity.
The report noted of the top 10 domestic box office draws in 2017, 90 percent had at least some strong Christian/moral content, with some of those including overt biblical references.
The top five movies were “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Wonder Woman,” “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2,” and “Spiderman: Homecoming.”
Baehr pointed to the animated “Boss Baby” as one of his favorite 2017 offerings. “It has babies being created in heaven by God,” he said. Later in the film, Jesus is described as the boss.
“Boss Baby” took in $528 million at the box office, meaning millions of people were exposed to the Christian worldview that God is the ultimate creator of life.
It also took home Movieguide’s “Best Movie For Families” award at its 2018 annual gala event in Los Angeles in February, while “Darkest Hour,” about Winston Churchill’s World War II leadership, won an award for best movie for mature audiences.
10 Films Go Head to Head for $25,000 at 2018 Movieguide Faith & Values Awards Gala (See List) https://t.co/KdnDzWFNbI
— The Christian Post (@ChristianPost) January 17, 2018
Baehr argues that Christians truly have the power to continue to shape what is offered in theaters. He sees 2004’s “The Passion of the Christ” as a watershed moment in Hollywood history that left studios on the lookout for good faith fare.
Baehr highlighted that every week about 26 million people go to movies, but 118 million go to church.
“What we try to tell Hollywood is ‘There’s good news out there,'” he stated. “There’s this big market, 118 million people.”
“We look at ourselves as this strange creature that’s under oppression,” Baehr observed of Christians. “We’re not under oppression.”
In his view, Christians are succeeding: Hollywood is listening, and the movie industry is being redeemed.
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