ST. LOUIS (RNS) — To get to
the movie section at Lifeway Christian Store in Bridgeton, Mo., customers pass
by shelves of books, CDs and greeting cards. The rack of Christian DVDs isn’t
huge, but it’s twice as big as it was a year ago and “growing all the time,”
said manager Francine Evans.
Some of the Christian titles
these days, she said, tackle “touchy subjects” such as drugs, domestic violence
“These are movies that deal
with issues that real people deal with,” Evans said. “Sometimes that’s what’s
necessary to reach people for God.
But the seals are needed.
They’re a good idea.”
The seals Evans anticipates
are part of a new system developed by the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Dove
Foundation to gauge the Christian values in films that contain sex, violence
For 20 years, the Dove
Foundation has placed a blue “dove” seal on any DVD it considered
family-friendly, from “Star Wars” to “Toy Story 3.” A new purple “Faith-Based”
seal warns of raw images or language in otherwise Christian-themed movies, and
a new gold “Faith-Friendly” seal indicates a Christian-themed movie that’s safe
for a family audience.
The launch of the new seals
is part of the International Christian Retailers Show, which is expected to
draw some 7,000 people from some 1,7000 Christian bookstores and 500 publishers
during its four-day (June 27-30) run here.
Book and music purchases
represent a significant portion of the stores’ annual $4.6 billion market. As
music sales increasingly go digital, retailers are expanding their DVD
offerings to recapture those sales, said Curtis Riskey, executive director of
the CBA (the former Christian Booksellers Association).
In 2009, Christian retail
sales of music declined by 1 percent from 2008, but Christian retail sales of
videos increased by 26 percent, according to the Christian Music Trade
Association and Nielsen Christian SoundScan.
“A consumer looks to
Christian retail to find family-friendly entertainment,” Riskey said. “The
ratings system helps identify for the Christian consumer the kinds of things
they can expect in a movie.”
To caution parents that some
Christian films can also contain un-Christian behavior or situations, the Dove
Foundation’s new “Faith-Based” seal will carry letters indicating the offending
content: “V” for violence, “D” for drugs and alcohol, “S” for sex, etc.
Many movies don’t make Dove’s
original “Family-Approved” cut at all. The group’s review of the recent comedy “MacGruber,”
“Unfortunately, despite some
good acting and fighting sequences, the violence level, not to mention the
strong language and sexual content, clearly prevents us from awarding this film
our Dove ‘Family-Approved’ Seal.”
“It’s the retailers that
really want there to be a rating system to help them serve their customers,”
said Bobby Downes, a Christian producer, whose latest movie, “Like Dandelion
Dust,” with Mira Sorvino, will be in theaters this fall.
“If a pastor walks into a
Christian bookstore and wants a movie he can show to his entire church, the
current rating system doesn’t help him make that determination.”
The Dove Foundation’s new
gold “Faith-Friendly” seal will alert consumers that a movie is not only
family-friendly, but that it contains a Christian message. DVDs of movies such
as “The Blind Side” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn
Treader” will receive the foundation’s gold seal on their packaging.
While the foundation’s
purple “Faith-Based” seal will register as a caution for parents, those in the
film industry say they’re not worried it will have a chilling effect on
Christian writers and directors concerned about DVD sales.
Dave Austin, vice president
of sales and marketing for the Bridgestone Group, which distributes Christian
films, said the “Faith-Based” seal is actually “a positive step for filmmakers.”
“As a distributor, if we
look at a film that’s not approved by Dove at all, we might ask for it to be
edited slightly to get that Dove approval,” he said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Townsend
writes for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in St. Louis, Mo.)