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Evangelical Audiences and “Hollywood” Film: Promoting Fireproof (2008)


By any criteria, Evangelical Christians constitute a significant segment of the American population, but they have always been a difficult audience for the American film industry to target, because many Evangelicals view themselves as ideologically opposed to Hollywood – a fraught relationship often referred to as the “Culture Wars.” This essay uses the recent hit Fireproof (2008) to examine the complex relationship between Hollywood, Evangelical audiences and independent Christian film producers.

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1 Joe Leydon, review of Fireproof, Variety, 26 Sept. 2008, obtained from

2 Josh Friedman, “Group Ticket Sales Could Ignite Fireproof,” Los Angeles Times, 23 Sept. 2008, obtained from; see also Frank Scheck, “Inspirational Drama Scores a Surprise Hit,” Hollywood Reporter, 30 Sept. 2008, obtained from

4 Jenkins, Henry, “The Cultural Logic of Media ConvergenceInternational Journal of Cultural Studies, 7, 1 (2004), 3343.

5 US Census Bureau, “Table 74. Religious Composition of U.S. Population,” 2009 Statistical Abstract, obtained online from

6 John C. Green, “The American Religious Landscape and Political Attitudes: A Baseline for 2004,” document obtained via download from

7 A far more comprehensive account of the Evangelical worldview can be found in Heather Hendershot, Shaking the World for Jesus: Media and Conservative Evangelical Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).

8 Christian Smith and Michael Emerson, American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 39.

9 See Hall, Sheldon, “Selling Religion: How to Market a Biblical Epic,Film History, 14 (2002), 173–79.

10 James Russell, “Debts, Disasters and Mega-musicals: The Decline of the Studio System,” in Linda Ruth Williams and Michael Hammond, eds., Contemporary American Cinema: US Cinema Since 1960 (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006), 51.

11 See, for example, Peter Biskind, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex 'n' Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (London: Bloomsbury, 1998), 17.

12 Peter Kramer, The New Hollywood: From Bonnie and Clyde to Star Wars (London: Wallflower, 2005), 47–58.

13 Sara Diamond, Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements and Political Power in the United States (New York: Guildford, 1995), 109–204.

14 Hendershot, 180.

15 James Davison Hunter, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America (New York: Basic, 1991).

16 Michael Medved, Hollywood vs America: Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values (New York: HarperCollins, 1992), 3.

17 For a similar survey of opinions and movie content see Stephen Powers, David J. Rothman and Stanley Rothman, Hollywood's America: Social and Political Themes in Motion Pictures (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996).

18 See Charles Lyons, The New Censors: Movies and the Culture Wars (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997), 146–83.

19 Hendershot, 189.

20 Ibid., 198.

21 Ibid., 2&18.

23 For full details of Gibson's marketing efforts see James Russell, The Historical Epic and Contemporary Hollywood: From Dances with Wolves to Gladiator (New York: Continuum, 2007), 190.

24 Philip J. Boyer, “The Jesus War,” New Yorker, 15 Sept. 2003, 58–71.

25 Robert H. Woods, Michael C. Jindra and Jason D. Baker, “The Audience Responds to The Passion of the Christ,” in S. Brent Plate, ed., Re-viewing the Passion: Mel Gibson's Film and Its Critics (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2004), 151–62.

26 Deborah Caldwell, “Selling Passion,” in Jon Meacham et al., Perspectives on The Passion of the Christ (New York: Miramax, 2004), 216.

27 Boyer 68.

28 Russell, James, “Narnia as a Site of National Struggle: Marketing, Christianity and National Purpose in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,Cinema Journal, 48, 4 (Fall, 2009), 5976.

30 Alex Kendrick and Michael Catt, interviewed in Julie Bloom, “It's a Healthy Marriage of Faith and Filmmaking,” New York Times, 6 Oct. 2008, obtained from

31 Stephen Kendrick, letter to exhibitors, included in the Flywheel promotional pack, Sherwood Production Files CD-ROM.

33 For details see Stephen Kendrick, letter to exhibitors.

35 Anon., “Facing the Giants Prayer Strategy,” included in the Sherwood Production Files CD-ROM.

36 Anon., “Facing the Giants, Sherwood Pictures Casting Call,” included in the Sherwood Production Files CD-ROM.

37 Leydon, review of Facing the Giants, unpaginated.

38 Melisa Pollock, Review of Facing the Giants, Christian Spotlight on the Movies, 29 Sept. 2006, obtained from

39 Leydon, review of Facing the Giants.

40 Scheck, “Inspirational Drama Scores a Surprise Hit,” unpaginated.

41 Neil Genzlinger, review of Fireproof, New York Times, 27 Sept. 2008, obtained from

42 See, for example, the feature “Commentary Tracks of the Damned,”,23845.htm.

44 Stephen Kendrick, quoted in Bloom, “It's a Healthy Marriage of Faith and Filmmaking,” unpaginated.

45 Leydon, review of Facing the Giants, unpaginated.

46 Tom Neven and Stephen Isaac, review of Facing the Giants, Plugged In Reviews, 27 Sept. 2008, obtained from

49 Nicole Laport, “Sony Takes Chance,” Variety, 15 Dec. 2005, obtained from

50 Peter Debruge, “The Gospel According to Research,” Variety, 2 Apr. 2007, obtained from

51 The term “package unit production” was coined by Janet Staiger in David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kristin Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (New York: Routledge, 1989), 330–38. The operation of the modern industry is most clearly described in Janet Wasko, How Hollywood Works (London: Sage, 2003).

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