Every now and then, the box-office prophets in Hollywood are shocked, shocked to discover that large numbers of Americans like to buy tickets to movies that are funny, clean, well-crafted and capable of tugging at a heart-string or two. There's another tricky little subject hiding in there that many media people just don't get, but we'll look at that a bit later.
Unless you have been hiding on another planet, you know that the hot movie out there in multiplex land is "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," which, as expected, is drawing armies of tissue-clutching young females (and their moms, hiding in the back rows) with its mixture of chaste romance and vampire family values.
However, another movie shocked the experts by jumping into the Thanksgiving mix. Here's the top of the New York Times box-office update:
As expected, "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" led at the movie box office for the second weekend in a row, with $42.5 million in domestic ticket sales for a 10-day total of $230.7 million. But the week's surprise came from "The Blind Side," a sports and family drama that was close behind with an estimated $40.1 million in sales, making it poised to become Sandra Bullock's highest-grossing film to date. ...
"It's going to do over $200 million," Dan Fellman, Warner's theatrical distribution president, predicted of the film, which was directed by John Lee Hancock. Ms. Bullock's best-selling film so far has been "The Proposal," another surprise hit that has taken in $164 million since it was released by Walt Disney in June.
So what, precisely, is helping "The Blind Side" shock Hollywood?
So far, I haven't seen a mainstream story that has taken on that topic. The label "family" does offer a hint, since that is often MSM code for "religious" or, at the very least, "clean."
However, we are dealing with a very mainstream star and a director who has a mixed financial track record, yet he has mainstream skills that allow him to turn his own Christian convictions into solid films. Think back to that earlier shocking hit, "The Rookie." That was another "family" film, rooted in a true-life sports story, that contained just a hint of faith.
Yes, faith. That seems to be the factor in this film that many don't seem to be able to get. Thus, we get hints. Take this passage from a USA Today box-office report, quoting Gregg Kilday, film editor for The Hollywood Reporter:
Sandra Bullock's The Blind Side kept the No. 2 spot and actually saw its gross rise 17% to $40.1 million. ... Kilday said The Blind Side is "kind of outside expectations, which probably suggests it's a movie that connected with the heartland when the two coasts weren't paying too much attention to it."
So the two coasts are, well, blue zones and the "heartland" is a, well, red zone that Hollywood struggles the understand? Something like that.
While I interviewed Leigh Anne Tuohy, I was not surprised that the woman at the heart of the real story understood the role that faith played in life of Michael Oher and the series of events that brought him into their family (photo: Sean Tuohy, Oher, Leigh Anne Tuohy). However, I did find it interesting that Bullock -- who had to be talked into taking this role -- clearly knew what was going on.
"We're convinced that faith guided and controlled this whole thing," said Leigh Anne Tuohy, the steel-magnolia matriarch of the rich, white, evangelical family that finally embraced Oher as a son, after providing food, shelter and clothing. "We absolutely believe that none of this was a fluke. ... This was God-driven from the start." ...
The key is that expressions of faith were a natural part of this true story, said actress Sandra Bullock, who plays Leigh Anne. No one was faking anything.
"This family, they were themselves for no other benefit other than because they wanted to reach out, lend a hand, and had no idea that they would get a son in return," she told reporters, after a press screening of "The Blind Side." Bullock said that, while making the movie, she regained a little "faith in those who say they represent a faith. ... I've finally met people that walk the walk."
If this movie does hit $200 million and keeps going, do you think anyone in the mainstream press will put two and two together? I mean, people write about little tiny Christian niche movies with no budget that are easy to criticize. "The Blind Side" looks like an interesting entertainment news story, to me.