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Between Hollywood and Godlywood

The Case of Walden Media

Nathalie Dupont

This book sheds new light on the relationship between conservative Christianity and Hollywood through a case study of Walden Media, which produced The Chronicles of Narnia franchise. Financed by a conservative Christian, Walden Media is a unique American company producing educational and family-friendly films with inspiring, moral, redemptive and uplifting stories. However, there is more to Walden than meets the eye and the company reflects wider trends within contemporary American society. Drawing on film industry data, film study guides and marketing campaigns targeting mainstream and conservative Christian audiences in the United States and abroad, this book reflects on Walden Media’s first ten years of activity as well as on the relationship between Hollywood and conservative Christians, notably evangelicals, at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Though both worlds are still wary of one another, this study shows that Walden Media films, and particularly The Chronicles of Narnia franchise, have tread a workable path between Hollywood and «Godlywood», albeit within the constraints of the now global film business.
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Chapter 4: Releasing Walden Media Films in America

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CHAPTER 4

Releasing Walden Media Films in America

Walden Media’s film branch operates in a world where it is necessary to be profitable, and to reach that goal Walden productions must be sold to the largest possible audience. This entails being able to find a balance between what can please mainstream audiences and faithfulness to the Walden touch that can also attract the interested Christian market discussed in Chapter 1. The problem is, however, that many film critics, secular audiences and sometimes even conservative Christians themselves regard films specially made for the conservative Christian niche market as badly written, badly acted and far too preachy, while not entertaining. Walden Media and its studio partners do not produce such films and certainly do not want them to be perceived as such. Their productions are first and foremost mainstream family entertainment and, only to some extent, can they be perceived as pictures for the Christian niche market, notably for the evangelicals who contributed to the success of The Passion of the Christ. Therefore, the point here is to describe how Walden Media’s studio partners have precisely tried to find a delicate balance between two different ways of marketing films.

As many books discuss the subject, it is not really useful here to describe in detail how Hollywood advertises its films to mainstream audiences. In general, a short pre-trailer – called teaser – is released months in advance, notably on the internet and in cinemas showing films targeting the...

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