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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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Nathalie Dupont’s timely tome investigates the growing trend of conservative Christians engaged in the film industry. In particular, she chronicles the historical background of the movement from its resistance to cultural media through the focused vision of billionaire Philip Anschutz and Walden Media. Dupont’s coining of the neologism of Godlywood playfully teases out the role that conservatives have devised in expressing their hopes and faith through the creative medium of film, much as Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood have established their own recognizable global styles.

Building upon the foundations of historical research on Protestant Christians involved in filmmaking enterprises, Dupont transports us into a new level of specific investigation, a case study of a remarkably successful production company. But along the journey she invites her readers to consider old and new questions, provoking us to think more broadly of the nature and scope of religious and moral cinema. How can a conservative film company, one stemming from a Protestant tradition of suspicion of images and tactically relying upon propositional or didactic approaches to communication (and evangelism), effectively sell one’s product while maintaining the integrity of their soul?

She poses the conundrum of how Walden Media films could survive in a profit-oriented industry; and yet, it has thrived in attracting audiences and garnering a profitable market share, developing a loyal niche culture. Of increasing importance is the role of foreign markets on the sustainability of film production companies. Selling one’s films in China and Europe can...

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