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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 6: Walden Media: Between Hollywood and Godlywood

Extract

CHAPTER 6

Walden Media: Between Hollywood and Godlywood

As previously discussed, the Great Reversal, together with conservative Christians’ mistrust of Hollywood, pushed those Christians to develop their own media subculture so as to cater for their specific entertainment needs. Small companies operating according to Christian principles thus produced rather modestly budgeted-films that were sometimes funded by local churches. In a way, these Celluloid Sermons1 were an echo of what had happened at the beginning of the twentieth century with the Protestant progressive movement’s attempt at creating both a Christian film industry and a film market that were nevertheless too limited to qualify as Godlywood.

The Christian entertainment landscape then changed, notably with the multiplication of radio stations, cable and satellite television channels in the 1970s and 1980s, so much so that ‘within the evangelical subculture alone there were over 1,300 religious radio stations, over 200 religious television stations and 3 religious television networks broadcasting in the United States by the early 1990s.’2 The number of productions aired on these television channels therefore increased, while they also became more easily available thanks to the development of the home video market, first with videocassettes and DVDs, and now with VoD. The market and audiences for Christian audiovisual goods consequently developed and became much more visible than before, to the point of justifying the term Godlywood for the now sizeable Christian film industry and adding it ← 247 | 248 → to the list of conflated words based on...

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