Gina Piccalo of the Los Angeles Times examines a recent trend of some major studios to cater to or at least market to specialized markets, such as religious communities, and families in general who are looking for cleaner entertainment. Instead of focusing only on what the critics in Los Angeles and New York say, they are checking in with heartland America.
Studio executives say their outreach to these groups should be seen as smart marketing rather than bowing to a conservative Christian agenda. On the one hand, they say, this is a large, motivated, well-organized niche credited with winning the Bush presidency. Why not reach out to them? At the same time, family films just happen to gross more on average than those without such wide appeal. So why not make more and ensure they appeal to the broadest possible swath of Americans?
"People have recognized in Hollywood that it’s good business to be in the family entertainment business," said one studio executive who did not want to be identified for fear of alienating critics. "Whether it’s Focus on the Family or Rick Warren, the author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life,’ there are gigantic religious groups that follow people that have a voice. It’s a group that understands who their constituency is better than film critics at large….They are very, very driven and very focused. They are not a silent majority. They’re very active."
Traditional big-name film critics and newspaper reviews are losing sway with audiences. Given the mainstream use of online communications, interest-group organizations and media can easily give a better idea to individuals if a film is right for them.