Walking out of the Trinity Baptist College Library about a month ago, I noticed an article that caught my interest, so I picked up the paper and read through what was some surprising information… In the article, Maria Puente of USA Today notes that the movie industry is having “a boffo year at the box office – $10.6 billion in ticket sales, the most ever,” and that “despite the recession, we keep going – and going” (Puente, Maria. “Theaters Turn Up the Luxury.” USA Today, March 12-14, 2010).
Such an article speaks volumes. While people are holding their nickles and dimes a bit tighter lately, they are willing to spend their hard-earned cash on one form of entertainment that seems to speak to them – movies. One could speculate that it’s the box office treats of movies like “Avatar” and “How to Train Your Dragon” that are drawing audiences, and the content in films is a big draw, but I think that there is a higher level of need that is being met.
Call the Western World a society built on entertainment if you like, and you are true, but I don’t think that it’s that simple. Entertainment in the movie house has become an outlet for many on a psychological and emotional level. Like playing video games (where many also spend a considerable amount of time), viewing films is an outlet – a way to set aside the daily grind and to go to worlds where they have never been. They can observe the lives of others as they unfold on the big screen. The difference from video games is that a film has a very specific story that has been created by a masterful writer, and the production company has put tons of time and money into visualizing the story with characters to which the audience can relate in some way or another. After ninety to one hundred fifty minutes a person can leave and return to his world with a little less stress and a great story with which to share with others.
Here’s a small note to keep perspective… While the box office numbers are up, this does not mean that Hollywood is doing extremely well. There are numerous filmmakers who are out of work at the present, as companies cut the number of productions and focus on those that will hopefully do the best. Hence, the income levels are being felt by the big production houses, not necessarily by independent filmmakers and/or production veterans living from shoot to shoot.
What does this mean? Clearly, people are looking for stories that communicate to them. They are willing to be influenced. Those producers and directors out there who have good stories and are able to find the funding have a good shot at reaching the masses as the number of films drops in the current season. An increase in the number of people attending theaters and a decrease in the number of available films only increases the potential audience for each film that makes it to the box office.
Do you have a good story? Were you waiting to push the start button on it until a better time? The better time is likely now, not later. Also, in a time of stress and despair over job security and finances, people need help. Christian filmmakers should be willing to take the next step of meeting that need – no, not a sermon on the big screen, but a story that challenges and uplifts toward a godly outlook on life.