As both an African-American and a person of faith, I have watched with great consternation while the missing reflection of the world in which I live in was previously being poorly served.
While I applaud the new-found proliferation of products that serve the burgeoning faith and family film market, I remain appalled that this sector is still being discussed from a niche-market perspective. I’m certainly aware that our great country is not a monolith with regard to faith or family or race for that matter. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine how 140 million consumers constitute a niche. More accurately, this group should be considered a majority of the market that deserves adequate attention at the box office as well as the television screen.
But a question emerges: Does Hollywood have the instinct to communicate to an audience base whose views are often more conservative than its own?
Is the system willing to accept the tutelage of those who understand how to penetrate this inescapable base of young families who are in constant pursuit of entertainment that is engaging, crafted with the excellence that only an adequate budget can afford?
If so, there must be a coupling between those who have the ear of this audience and those who greenlight that which their eyes would behold.
For years there has been skepticismon both sides and a concession that faith in Hollywood was not a marriage made in heaven.
However, if we can forge a union that allows a market driven by authentic relativity rather than a shotgun wedding that ends in a plundering box office, we must start from the development stage of production to create lucrative offspring called “quality entertainment.”
In creating such a union, we must also be aware of the sensitivities of this population without alienating the mainstream populace, which may not share the same core values but will support quality entertainment that isn’t exclusive, but rather inclusive, of a broad-based need for budget-friendly, family-friendly fare.
When we observe the success of movies like the recent “Heaven Is for Real,” the impact of this growing marketplace is becoming harder and harder to ignore.
Hollywood may have to override its own skepticism in order to reflect faith on film, and recognize that it needs to “go green” at the box office by partnering with those who have an instinct to increase the diversity of entertainment options for a previously underserved and poorly served consumer market.
As long as Americans continue to be comprised of more than 83% of people who profess a belief in God (78.4% of whom are Christians and 4.7% who cite other religions) the ticket booth can’t bypass the offering plate if the messages onscreen are void of the content that engages people of faith in some measure from grandma to her grandkids.
My recent New York Times bestselling book “Instinct” suggests, and rightly so, that successful business only emerges when opposite interests find common intersections that make it possible to forge win-win deals.
It is my hope that this nebulous tool of entertainment will be guided by a new-found faith in God.
But if not, perhaps the words “in God we trust” etched on our monetary system will enable our top decision-makers to embrace the coin, if not the cross, in making choices for the future of greenlit films.
Bishop T.D. Jakes is the founder and senior pastor of the Potter’s House in Dallas and the bestselling author of “Instinct.” He has also produced the films “Heaven Is for Real” and “Black Nativity.” He is a keynote speaker at Variety’s Purpose summit on Thursday.