Horrors! Believers keep going to movies!

exorcism of emily rose 0Here is a Wall Street Journal piece that I wanted to comment on when it came out, but the link was only up for subscribers. Now it seems to be there for free. This news report is linked to the ongoing trend of niche PR in Hollywood, which affects everyone from cultural conservatives to the gay community. In this case, the trailblazing work is being done by a group called Grace Hill Media.

The studio also courted the Christian media with screenings and interviews with director Scott Derrickson, pointing out that he is a churchgoing Christian.

The result: some religious writers recommended the movie in their publications. The film "is a well-crafted and intelligent movie that aspires to engage heads and not just spin them," wrote the Catholic News Service in a dig on "The Exorcist," which featured a possessed girl's head spinning around. "Emily Rose," by contrast, "tells a story of faith and compassion," read a review on "Plugged In," the cultural guide published by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family.

In my own case, I was sincerely interested in the work of Scott Derrickson, who is a graduate of Biola University near Los Angeles. In candor, I should note that Biola is a major player in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, the network behind the journalism program I lead here in Washington, D.C. I am also interested in the entire arena of cultural conservatives wrestling with popular culture on its own terms. There are many, many stories to be written in this area. I have, of course, tried to chase many of them and -- warning! book plug! -- will continue to do so.

It's hard to see how this trend can be bad for Hollywood, in an era in which the goal is to get more people into theaters and to run off as few of them as possible.

We are settling into an age of niche films and blockbusters, with almost no middle-sized movies in between. If studios can make quality films that manage to appeal to what is clearly a large potential audience -- ordinary Americans who go to church quite a bit -- then that is good for people in the industry. Right? It is possible to see signs of this trend all over the place. And, yes, it is freaking out some people in the press.

There also is history at work here. People (traditional Christians, even) who believe that some things are absolutely and eternally right, while other things are absolutely and eternally wrong, have been known to write some pretty good stories about murders and trials and related issues. You can look it up.

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