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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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As far back as Griffith’s Intolerance (1916) […], films have reflected society’s attempts to come to grips with contemporary problems.1

Hollywood films reflect the society they are born into. Top Gun, which reflects the Reagan era perfectly, had a screenplay written in the mid-1970s and that spent long years in the script purgatory as it was passed on from studio to studio,2 at a time of rather downbeat and militant progressive films like Coming Home (Hal Ashby, 1978) and The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978). But the success of more upbeat films such as Firefox (Clint Eastwood, 1982), together with the patriotic revival of the 1980s Reagan years, later made Top Gun interesting again and commercially viable in the eyes of studios, which eventually led Paramount Pictures to produce and release the $15 million production in May 1986. Top Gun went on to gross almost $180 million at home and $177.03 million abroad, a success that no-one could have hoped for ten years earlier.

The creation of Walden Media and its subsequent productions also correspond to a particular time in late twentieth-century America. The company came to be when the Christian Right contributed to the political Republican victories and while the Christian subculture was becoming a market to be reckoned with. Walden Media came to offer an answer to the ongoing conservative Christian complaints about Hollywood films being ridden with sex and violence, as Walden’s productions have presented audiences with educational, upbeat and moral...

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