By Diane Howard, Ph.D.
With all of the sex, violence and negativity that is commonly associated with today’s movies, it’s refreshing to know that there are producers, directors and actors who are still committed to creating material with a positive and faith-based approach. Movieguide® is the go-to source for movie reviews for families, and on this past February 10th, they hosted the 25th Annual Movieguide Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry. The event, sometimes called “The Christian Oscars,” the largest faith-and-values Awards show in the country, was held at the Universal Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. This year was the Silver Anniversary of the Awards, and it gave viewers an opportunity to see the brightest movies from a faith-based audience perspective.
The elegant Red Carpet featured representatives of the best family-friendly movies, TV and the entertaining, uplifting gala (singularly devoid of political rants and other offensive elements), and it was a taste of heaven. Actor Terry Crews brought his energizing comedic strength to the Awards. The music by Olivia Newton John and Anthony Hamilton with Pastor Shirley Caesar was both energizing and inspiring.
Prizes and grants were awarded to a wide range of excellent redemptive, family movies and TV programs. The event was, as always, a beautiful, classy, family-friendly show with the best of entertainment and honors for the best in redemptive, family movies and TV.
I was able to interview producers, writers, directors, and actors on both the Red Carpet and at the various events surrounding the Awards Show. Kevin and Sam Sorbo were delightful, as always, to interview on the Red Carpet. Kevin gave an update on his upcoming movie “Let There Be Light,” which his wife, Sam has written and Sean Hannity is producing. It is about an atheist who has a near-death experience and becomes a Christian. It is due in theaters on Christmas Eve. Kevin also shared about his participation in a new audio Bible, Breathe Bible.
David A. R. White and Andrea Logan White, who are always gracious on the Red Carpet, gave an update on Pure Flix‘s new, family, faith-friendly comedy show offerings and their new movie, “The Case for Christ.” This film is based on the true story about an award-winning investigative journalist and avowed atheist who applies his journalistic and legal skills to disprove the newfound Christian faith of his wife. However, he experiences unexpected, life-altering results. Brian Bird has written the screenplay based on Lee Strobel’s book. It features Faye Dunaway and is due in theaters April 7, 2017.
Cyrus Nowrasteh, producer and director for “The Young Messiah,” and Betsi Nowrasteh, writer for the movie, gave an update on their new project, “The Last Campaign” (which has the same producers as “The Young Messiah”). This new movie is about the personal redemption story of Robert Kennedy in 1968. Tracy Price, the producer, and the delightful Adam Greaves-Neal, who stars in the movie, were with Cyrus and Betsi on the Red Carpet. Vivacious, spunky young Alyvia Alyn Lind brought sparkle to the Red Carpet as we discussed her joy in performing as the young Dolly Parton in Dolly’s TV movies.
Amy Reid, writer for the TV movie, “Pocahontas: Dove of Peace,” shared her process in getting the untold true story of Pocahontas from the American Indian Christian perspective. Anthony Hamilton, who later energetically performed on stage with Pastor Shirley Caesar, talked about the need for positive, uplifting movies. Kate Linder, veteran TV personality known for “Faith Hollywood TV,” and much more, mentioned how much she loved coming to the Awards Gala and what a pleasure it was this year to be an award presenter. She talked about the need for positivity and family values in TV and movies and how they can entertain and educate at the same time. Khaneshia “KJ” Smith, who is also a veteran TV actor known for “Queen Sugar” and more, talked about the need for more redemptive stories.
Beautiful Sharon Thomas, a Christian Indian Bollywood star, who is a well known star in India, was a shining light on the Red Carpet. Jencarlos Canela who played our Lord Jesus Christ for “The Passion: New Orleans” and one of its executive producers, Adam Anders, were delightful on the Red Carpet. They talked about the need for light, uplifting, and positive movies and TV.
Veteran singer and actor, Pat Boone, featured recently in “God’s Not Dead 2,” was charming as always on the Red Carpet in a dazzling, sparkling jacket, which he teased that he had brought at an Elvis Presley garage sale. He said if anyone needed an 80-year-old man who was still able to learn lines, he might be available. Devielle Johnson, (“Time to Dance” ) was charming on the Red Carpet. De Von Franklin of “Miracles From Heaven” was lovely, as always. He is producing now an animated family, adventure, fantasy movie called “The Star.” This movie, which is about a small but brave donkey and his animal friends who become the unsung heroes of the first Christmas, is due in theaters November 10.
Evan Sayet, known for the “Politically Incorrect” TV series, talked of his current papers and speeches on how modern liberal thinking leads to wrong and evil. Serena Laurel, who is an actress and singer-songwriter, told of her new upcoming album, “Bird Song.” It is an uplifting alternative rock collection.
D.R. Fraley, film professor at Bryan College, introduced Walker Haynes, whose movie “Hamlet’s Ghost” was the first feature film received at his Broad Street Film Festival. The movie is about a modern Shakespearean actor who must travel back in time to confront enigmatic forces from the past and future. Veteran casting director and actor, Mark Fincannon (“The Blind Side” and much more), told amazing behind-the-scenes stories about the movie, “The End of the Spear.”
At the Movieguide Awards Gala, the Best Movies for Families nominations included the following: “Finding Dory,” “The Jungle Book (2016),” “Miracles from Heaven,” “Pete’s Dragon (2016),” “Queen of Katwe,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Sing,” “Trolls,” “The Young Messiah,” and “Zootopia.” “Miracles from Heaven” was the winning movie.
The Movieguide Awards nominations for Best Movie for Mature Audiences included: “Ben-Hur (2016),” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Eddie the Eagle,” “The Finest Hours,” “God’s Not Dead 2,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hail Caesar,” “Risen,” “The Silence,” and “Sully.” “God’s Not Dead 2” was the winner.
The Movieguide Epiphany Award nominations—for best and most inspiring movie and television programs—included the following: “Ben-Hur (2016),”God’s Not Dead 2,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hail Caesar,” “Miracles from Heaven,” “Risen,” “The Silence,” “The Young Messiah,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (Season 3: Episodes 20-22: “Emancipation,” “Absolution,” “Ascension” ),” “The Bridge (Part 2),” “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors (Circle of Love),” “Operation Christmas,” “The Passion (New Orleans),” “Pocahontas (Dove of Peace),” and “A Time to Dance.” “The Young Messiah” won the award for most inspiring movie and “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors (Circle of Love)” won the award for most inspiring TV program.
The Movieguide Bradley Foundation Faith and Freedom Awards for movie nominations included: “Captain America (Civil War),” “God’s Not Dead 2,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hail Caesar,” “Queen of Katwe,” “Sing,” and “Sully.” “Hacksaw Ridge” won the Foundation Faith and Freedom Award.
The Movieguide Bradley Foundation Faith and Freedom Awards for TV nominations included: “Operation Christmas,” “Pocahontas: Dove of Peace,” “The Bridge Part 2,” “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors (Circle of Love),” “The Passion (New Orleans),” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 3: Episodes 20-22: Emancipation, Absolution, Ascension).” “Operation Christmas” was the winner.
The Movieguide nominations for Inspiring Performance Awards for Movies and TV included: “Ben-Hur (2016),” Rodrigo Santoro; “God’s Not Dead 2,” David A.R. White and Melissa Joan Hart; “Hacksaw Ridge,” Andrew Garfield; “Hail Caesar,” Josh Brolin and Robert Pike Daniel; “Miracles from Heaven,” Jennifer Garner and Kylie Rogers; and “Risen,” Cliff Curtis and Joseph Fiennes; “The Young Messiah,” Adam Greaves-Neal; “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Season 3: Episodes 20-22: Emancipation, Absolution, Ascensio),” Natalia Cordova-Buckley; “The Bridge (Part 2),” Faith Ford and Ted McGinley; “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors (Circle of Love),” Alyvia Alyn Lind, Gerald McRaney, Dolly Parton; “The Passion (New Orleans),” Tyler Perry; and “A Time to Dance,” Devielle Johnson.
The Grace Awards were given for the “most inspiring performances in movies and television demonstrating God’s grace and love toward us as human beings.” Melissa Joan Hart won the award for best movie actress for “God’s Not Dead 2″ and young Adam Greaves-Neal for best movie actor for “The Young Messiah.” Faith Ford won the award for best TV actress for “The Bridge (Part 2)” and Devielle Johnson won for best TV actor for “A Time to Dance.”
A Lifetime Achievement Award for Communicating and Living the Good News was given to Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network, the 700 Club and Operation Blessing.
Further, the $15,000 Kairos Prizes were given at the event. The Kairos Pro Prize for Inspiring Screenplays by Established Filmmakers seeks to promote positive change in the motion picture industry. The primary purpose of the prize was to further the influence of moral and spiritual values within the entertainment industry as a whole. Supported by Pure Flix Streaming and established by Movieguide in 2005, the primary purpose of the Kairos Pro Prize for Inspiring Screenplays by Established Filmmakers is also to further the influence of moral and spiritual values within the film and television industries. Seeking to promote a spiritually uplifting, redemptive worldview, the prize was founded to inspire first-time and beginning screenwriters to produce compelling, entertaining, spiritually uplifting scripts that result in a greater increase in either man’s love or understanding of God.
The Kairos Pro Award went to Trisha Mammen for “The Prayer Box.” Finalists included Billie Harris for “Helping Hands” and Eric “Doc” Benson for “The Publication.” The Kairos Prize for New Screenwriters went to Ron Peer for “Donuts With Jerry.” Finalists included Chris Philips for “Holiday in Heaven” and Romeo Ciolfi for “The Great Surrender.”
An annual box office analysis by an advocacy group in Hollywood catering to families has found once again that the most family-friendly movies with the most inspiring, cleanest content earn more money at the box office and on home video. The 2017 Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry by the pro-family advocacy group Movieguide showed that most family-friendly movies averaged more than $78.77 million per movie in 2016 in America and Canada, but the least family-friendly movies with the most offensive, obscene, or anti-family, immoral content averaged only about $22.58 million. R-rated movies fared almost as poorly, averaging only $18.45 million per movie. The study extensively analyzed the content of the top movies released by the major studios in Hollywood earning $800,000 or more, including the major independent studios.
“The evidence is abundantly clear,” said Dr. Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide. “Moviegoers greatly prefer family-friendly movies.”
He noted that the Annual Report, now in its 25th year, doesn’t just examine family movies and cartoons for children, but also, family-friendly movies with the cleanest, most inspiring, and least offensive content.
“Most people want to see good conquer evil, truth triumph over falsehood, justice prevail over injustice, liberty conquer tyranny, and beauty overcome ugliness,” he added. “They also would like to take their whole family—including their grandparents—to the movies more often.”
The study also found that movies released in 2016 with no sex, no explicit nudity and no foul language averaged much more money than movies with such content.
The story was similar if you examine the Top 10 Home Video Sales in 2016 (as of November 2016). For example, only one of the Top 10 Home Video Sales in 2016 was rated R, “Deadpool.” The Top 10 Movies Overseas in 2016 fared just as well, with only one R-rated movie, the Chinese movie, “The Mermaid.”
The most family-friendly movies included such popular titles as “Zootopia,” “The Jungle Book (2016),” “Finding Dory,” the last “Hunger Games” movie, “The Secret Life of Pets,” and “The Good Dinosaur” plus less successful titles such as “Pete’s Dragon,” “War Room,” “Miracles from Heaven,” “Sing,” “Risen,” “God’s Not Dead 2,” “Queen of Katwe,” and “The Peanuts Movie.”
Dr. Baehr presented these and other highlights from Movieguide’s 2017 Annual Report to the Entertainment Industry at the gala event. Movieguide has been analyzing the content of movies and comparing box office numbers since 1991. Last year, an InspireBuzz/NRG survey of parents showed that Movieguide is what one in three parents use to choose what movie they watch, making it the largest family review service.
A one-hour presentation of the Faith & Values Awards will be telecast Easter Sunday, April 16, on the REELZChannel. For more information about Movieguide or CFTVC, visit www.movieguide.org or call (805) 383-2000.
Pictured above: Dr. David Howard, Pat Boone, and Dr. Diane Howard on the Red Carpet. Photo courtesy of Dr. David Howard