The Passion of the Marketers

There's a fascinating article in today's Business section of the NY Times on "The Passion of the Marketers," that is, the new profit-geared trend in movies: avoid taking the Lord's name in vain, and market directly to churches.

You can click here for the article, which requires a login, but below are some of the most interesting quotes:

"The Hollywood elites' eyes widened big time," Mr. Waliszewski said. "They said, 'I thought the church was dead. I didn't think people cared. Is it possible that we don't know what's happening in state after state?' And the answer is a resounding yes."

Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians number an estimated 30 million in the United States, and Hollywood - faced with a prolonged slump in ticket sales - has followed its natural instincts in trying to tap one of the country's most powerful niche markets.

"There's definitely more of an awareness, but it's just another group to be marketed to, albeit a very strong one, with incredible grass-roots tentacles," said Russell Schwartz, president of theatrical marketing at New Line Cinema, a Time Warner company.

"Tentacles," that's a nice choice of words. Continuing...

In some cases, such customizing has meant sanding the edges off dialogue that might offend churchgoers. For example, the actor Peter Sarsgaard, speaking at a tribute to his work during the Seattle Film Festival recently, said he was instructed to strike the word "Jesus" from his dialogue during shooting this year of the forthcoming Disney thriller "Flightplan."

"They said: 'You can't say that. You can't take the Lord's name in vain,' " Mr. Sarsgaard said he was told by the film's producers. He said he offered to say the line more reverently, but "they wouldn't buy it. I had to say 'shoot,' and that isn't as good."

There's a bit more that's really quite interesting, but the target audience that's being discussed obviously moves away from "Christian" into "American Evangelly," but the conflation goes unnoticed by the NY Times, who included a photo of the latest "Left Behind" film, which is "about the biblical end of days." Also, this fantastic quote from a Christian producer:

For the most part, specialists say, Hollywood still does not really know the Christian viewer. "They don't understand the audience as well as they should," said Chris Bueno, a producer in Carmel, Calif., who makes small Christian-theme movies. He recalled a Hollywood producer who recently tried to insert Christianity into a television movie by having a character fall to his knees on a beach and say the Lord's Prayer. He declined to name the producer.

"Christians aren't going to do that, it's a cliché," Mr. Bueno said. "Not that they don't pray; they do. But it seemed contrived. "

That particular scene might well have been contrived, but to say that "Christians don't do that..." Dude must have no sense of the sublime. Or he doesn't know anyone who knows the Lord's Prayer.