SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Filmmaker and media consultant Phil Cooke said it's time for Christians to show Hollywood movie executives that movies of high quality and moral standards are in large demand by attending such movies, preferably on opening night, in high numbers.
"As Christians, we've done a bad job of voting at the box office. We boycott movies we don't like. We criticize movies we don't like. Hollywood couldn't care less about boycotts," said Cooke during a panel discussion workshop at the San Diego Christian Film Festival on Sunday.
"We've discovered that boycotts simply don't work," he said. "What works is the box office."
A common complaint among Christian movie-goers is that filmmakers have lowered the bar when it comes to what they consider acceptable behavior and depictions in movies. Portrayals of violence, sex, and the omission of traditional values seems to be on the rise, many Christians believe.
However, movie executives "could care less about criticism," Cooke said. High ticket sales numbers at the box office is what is most impactful, he explained.
"With 71 million evangelical Christians in America, if we actually went out on opening night to movies we support I just think we would change Hollywood tomorrow. That's what gets [movie executives'] attention – box office. Yet, we don't," he said.
Also on the panel, Cooke's wife and film production company partner, Kathleen, said that it's important for Christians to mobilize members of their church, youth groups, and their Bible studies to get behind attending important movies at theaters. Pastors should also be made aware of positive movies that can make a difference.
She suggested using social media such as Facebook and Twitter as one of several ways to "get to the people that are out there and say, 'Look, you need to pay attention to these films. I've seen it and let's get a group to go.' It's about getting the word out and getting a group to go opening weekend."
The panel, which also included producer Dan Rupple, agreed that after years of being active in the movie industry it is still astonishing to see the small turnouts of Christians at showings of faith-based films.
"That's the barrier we need to break," Cooke said. "Let's stop criticizing Hollywood and let's start figuring out how to mobilize ourselves to actually go support movies that would make a difference. If we can do that I think it would be huge."
Rupple would also like to see the church become more involved in helping to shape the film industry.
"I'm hoping that more and more great films will come out of the life of the church, and somebody says 'I'm producing this for the body of Christ, and I want this to go to the church circles. That's who I want it to minister to.'"
The three-day film festival held at the Birch North Park Theatre ended Sunday evening.