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Erica Galindo
Celebrating Food, Faith and Family
Last edited on: March 22, 2018.

In recent months top family, redemptive movies in theaters have picturized the value and need for Biblical virtues such as kindness, compassion and forgiveness in our personal and corporate lives. This third week of March wonderful family, redemptive movies remain at the top of the box office with a primary theme of reconciliation: I Can Imagine (PG) suitable for teens through adults, Black Panther (PG-13) for teens through adults, Peter Rabbit (PG) for all ages, The Greatest Showman (PG) for older children through adults, Ferdinand (PG) for all ages, Wonder (PG) for older children through adults, and Samson (PG-13) for teens through adults.

I Can Only Imagine, came out in theaters this past weekend at the top of the box office, grossing $17 million in its opening weekend, with a per-screen average of $10,400. Because this movie had a production budget of $7 million, it has already had an amazing return.

In this gripping movie, Dennis Quaid displays a powerful range as an actor portraying Bart Millard’s father who undergoes a startling transformation. The inspiring and previously unknown true story behind MercyMe’s beloved, chart-topping song that brings ultimate hope to many is an important reminder of the power of true forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption.

In the movie, while chasing a dream and running away from broken relationships with his father and Shannon, his childhood sweetheart, Bart hits the road in an old, decrepit tour bus with his new band MercyMe, which was named for his grandmother’s favorite expression. With the guidance of a grizzled music-industry insider, the band begins a journey which none of them could ever have imagined. See my interview with director/writer Jon Erwin.

The initial box office success for I Can Only Imagine is significant. For consumers concerned about the content of media, and who want to make a difference in encouraging the production of good movies and other media, it is important to understand and exercise savvy consumer power for good. It is important to understand, for example, that much is at stake for good redemptive movies in their first weekend in theaters. The first weekend is highly significant for the success of the movie and its broadest impact worldwide for the eternal good of our world. Consumers who support good movies and media can make a difference. When they see the movies in a theater the first weekend, their consumer “vote” makes the strongest impact.

Unfortunately, movies that do not bring in significant revenue the first weekend are often dismissed as “disappointments,” “failures,” or “flops” at the box office. In recent decades, cinemas have been dropping movies after a poor opening weekend. To some extent the opening weekend can determine the future and fate of the movie.

In general, a movie has to make over 2.5 times its budget to be successful. A movie needs to make more than its global production and promotional budgets to make money and to secure funds for future movies. Movies are considered hits when they exceed both the films’ budgets and expectations. They are considered “disappointments,” “failures,” or “flops” when they don’t. By this measure and more, I Can Only Imagine is successful already.

Also addressing the theme of reconciliation, Black Panther further picturizes how to avoid, thwart and prevent evil through sharing and coordination of technology with good leaders. In the dangerous world in which we live, superhero movies with heroes of with good moral character, integrity, and self-sacrifice are popular partly because audiences want to see heroes who enable good to prevail over evil. This movie is rated PG-13, due to the violent struggles between good and evil. It is appropriate for middle schoolers-adults.

Black Panther is about Wakanda, an African nation, which has developed “vibranium,” an invaluable metal from a meteorite. Vibranium has helped Wakanda produce extremely advanced technology and civilization, which they have kept hidden from the world, as they pose as an impoverished country.

Wakanda struggles with the following universal questions and dilemmas:  Should they share what they have with those in need? If they share, will they lose control of their resources? Will those with whom they might share use their technology for evil? Is the king’s highest loyalty and duty to his nation or to humanity? If Wakanda refuses to help those they can, how will it affect Wakanda? Can Wakanda use its power and technology for the good of all, as well as for their own country?

Where the earlier American Black Panther group used power for militancy, this latest Black Panther uses technology and power for the Good of All.

Another movie at the top of the box office this week that deals with resolving conflicts and finding reconciliation is Peter Rabbit. It is about the mischievous and adventurous Peter Rabbitwho leads his animal friends to battle against the McGregors. This movie is PG-rated and is appropriate for children through adults. This charming film is based on Beatrix Potter books and is full of delightful British humor.

Will Gluck, co-writer/director, says “When I was a kid, my dad read me the Peter Rabbit books, so I always had an emotional tie to him – and when I had kids, I read the books to them…The thing I love most is that Peter is a little mischief-maker. He’s depicted in a beautiful old-fashioned style, but …I thought it was a great opportunity to take that little nugget, what Beatrix Potter gave Peter, expand that personality trait and make it our own contemporary story.”

In the film, Peter’s battle with Old Mr. McGregor, keeper of the vegetable garden, takes a turn when the old man dies. When his great-nephew, Mr. Thomas McGregor inherits the place, Peter realizes that the struggle for control of the vegetable garden – and the heart of their next-door neighbor, Bea – has only just begun.  To help, Peter is enlisting his family and friends – sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, cousin Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and other characters author and illustrator Beatrix Potter created in her original tales.

For the animation, Gluck and fellow producer Zareh Nalbandian partnered with Nalbandian’s Animation and VFX studio Animal Logic, whose previous credits include The LEGO® MovieHappy Feet, and other films, for a film that would combine animation with live action.  “We wanted to use as many of the Beatrix Potter characters as possible to honor what she created,” continues Gluck. “We’re all familiar with the beautiful watercolor paintings – if they were to come to life in the real world, we hope this is what they would look like.” This live-action movie is a delightful animation marvel.

The look of the film was only one part of maintaining the integrity of the characters – just as important was ensuring that Peter behaved as Peter – a character who takes risks and enjoys a good prank, but one whose good heart shines through.

“Peter is told not to go into McGregor’s garden because his father was put into a pie for going into the garden. What does he do? He goes into the garden. That’s who Peter is – there’s nothing more you can tell someone who’s like that,” Gluck explains. “He has that impishness, but also a bold confidence and a self-delusion that he’s always right, when he’s actually often wrong. He’s never in doubt, though, so he keeps charging forward until he realizes he’s gone too far.”

But even as Peter faces reality when daring bullheadedness goes too far, his true character emerges. “He comes to realize that he has to take care of his cousin and his three sisters, and although he wouldn’t admit it to himself, he realizes that there might be shades to Thomas McGregor,” Gluck continues. “Peter is an adolescent who starts to appreciate that things aren’t always black and white.”

Protecting these elements of Peter’s character was extremely important to the filmmakers, as they worked closely with the guardians of the Beatrix Potter legacy, the publishers at Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd., a division of Penguin Random House, which has published Beatrix Potter’s Original Peter Rabbit Books™ since 1902.

Susan Bolsover, director of licensing and consumer products for Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd, says that the Peter Rabbit movie will connect with 2018 audiences in a similar way that the book did for readers in 1902 because the themes of adventure and mischief are timeless. “I think Beatrix Potter was able to reach so many people with The Tale of Peter Rabbit because it’s a funny, timeless story that captures children’s imaginations,” she adds.  “Beatrix understood the importance of talking to children on their own level and created a story, set in the natural world that all children would recognize with themes that would be universally appealing.”

Peter eventually teaches his animal friends to find healing coexistence with their human friends and his readers to find the same with each other.

Another top pick movie that has continued in theaters into March with the theme of healing conflict and finding reconciliation among diverse characters is the spectacular musical, The Greatest Showman. Love, kindness, and unconditional love are also dominant themes in The Greatest Showman. This original musical is inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum.

This charming movie tells the story of the visionary, P.T. Barnum, who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.   P.T. Barnum played by Hugh Jackman, founder of the three-ring circus, started with nothing; but he envisions a grand spectacle of theater, acrobatics, and amusement.

Academy Award® nominee Hugh Jackman especially likes “…the idea that your talent, your imagination and your ability to work hard should be the only things that determine your success. He (PT Barnum) knew how to make something out of nothing, how to turn lemons into lemonade. I’ve always loved that quality. He followed his own path, and turned any setback he had into a positive.  So many things I aspire to in my life are embodied in this one character.”

Australian director Michael Gracey says “…The Greatest Showman also touches on another idea of these times…families built around allowing people to express who they are without reservation… A big idea in the film is that your real wealth is the people that you surround yourself with and the people who love you…Barnum pulled people together who the world might otherwise have ignored.  And by bringing each of these people into the light, he created a family who were always going to be there for each other. In the course of the film, Barnum almost loses both his real family and his circus family – but then you watch him discover that the most important thing he can do is bring them both back together again… Barnum’s story is about not limiting your imagination, about using what’s in your head to create new worlds….”

Gracey also focuses on the Oddities, the circus performers with uncommon physical conditions. Displays of such individuals as freaks is not acceptable today and Gracey sees another side of what Barnum’s performers experienced – the opportunity to escape hidden, marginal lives; the chance to inspire admiration and feel pride; and most of all the ability to provoke questions into just how narrowly we define “normal.” (Margot Robbie), Benjamin, Bea (Rose Byrne), Peter Rabbit (James Corden) and Cottontail (Daisy Ridley) in Columbia Pictures’ PETER RABBIT.

“The Oddities are people who are invisible to society so they’ve been kept behind closed doors,” explains Gracey.  “And what our P.T. Barnum does is give these invisible people a spotlight and a chance to feel love for the first time. He tells wondrous stories in which they are not damaged but special. I think audiences will love the Oddities because at the end of the day, everyone’s an Oddity.” He emphasizes, “There’s a line where Barnum says, ‘No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.’  That to me is the heart of the film.”

For Gracey, everything hinged on getting the music for this movie right. He determined that the songs could counterpoint the period setting – rather than going back in time, he wanted songs that would make the characters and dilemmas urgently of-the-moment.  Benj Pasek and Justin Paul known for Oscar®-winning work on La La Land brilliantly provided this and more. Gracey said, “What Benj and Justin songs they wrote are always taking you somewhere – each is a narrative in its own right.”

Tony Award winner and Academy Award® nominee Hugh Jackman brings his commitment to family to this movie. Producer Laurence Mark says, “I think this is the first movie in which Hugh has actually played a family man and calls upon that part of himself… He makes it very much a story about a man who loses and then rediscovers his family – both his home family and his circus family who together mean everything in the world to him.”

Jackman also says, “What I like most is that at its heart, this is a film about taking risks, following your dreams and celebrating what makes each and every one of us unique…Barnum filled his show with the most talented but overlooked people he knew and gave them a magnificent spotlight in which to shine – and that’s the story we’ve decided to tell….Barnum broke walls down and I think what he represents to us now is this idea that you can be whoever you are, you can choose the life you want regardless of class or race or background.

If you work hard and use your imagination, you can do something amazing. I think Barnum was a little bit of an Oddity himself, growing up.  He believed that what makes you different makes you special. That resonates with me in a huge way — and I think everybody can relate to it, particularly young kids.  That’s why I’m thrilled that the theme of this movie is that it is empowering and cool just to be you….as the father of two teenagers, I talk to them constantly about the idea that no matter who you are, no matter how you differ from supermodels and football players, it’s irrelevant. Love yourself exactly the way you were born.”

Jackman’s song “From Now On,” is about seeking redemption. “That song is about Barnum coming to terms with …mistakes he’s made…” says music writer Justin Paul.  “It begins in a hush and build and builds until the moment where he has to rush down the street trying to win his family back.”

The music, choreography, and production elements of this spectacular musical movie creatively and freshly communicate the central themes through the skillful performances of top performers. As with the songs for The Greatest Showman, the design aesthetic blends vintage and new – hurtling the 19th century of P.T. Barnum into the future of today.  Along with a team of dedicated artisans – including cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, production designer Nathan Crowley and costume designer Ellen Mirojnick – Michael Gracey establishes a look that is not grounded in any specific era. It is grounded in the power of the imagination of every era, bridging the gap between Barnum’s times and our own.

The movie culminates with the film’s climactic reprise of The Greatest Show.  Choreographer Asley Wallen says, “We left our biggest dance for the end…It’s just a huge number that incorporates all the circus acts, all the dancers, all the Oddities, the…animals and so much more.  It’s created to be a big, astounding, celebratory final note.”

Producer Laurence Mark says: “We all hope to have created a feast for the eyes, for the ears and for the heart.  The old Barnum & Bailey circus’s time has come and gone, but what lives on as the legacy of Barnum is that desire to spark joy and imagination, and that’s the tradition we hope to have honored.”

Further, Ferdinand is another top pick family movie that continues in theaters with charm, heart, and healing solutions to conflict. It is about a bull who doesn’t bully.  This movie, like The Greatest Showman, also has the theme of the value of each individual. Ferdinand is a CG-animated adaptation of the classic 1936 book by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson.

The movie begins in Casa del Toros, a bull training camp in rural Spain from which young Ferdinand bolts upon learning his dad never returned from a trip to that Madrid arena. He finds idyllic refuge on a farm belonging to Juan whose daughter Nina makes a pet out of Ferdinand. But when the docile creature grows to an enormous, threatening size, he is seized by the authorities and delivered back to Casa del Toros.

Ferdinand plans an escape with the help of a team of misfits who, like Ferdinand, defy stereotypes. The movie is a heartwarming, comedic adventure for all ages. Moments of comic entertainment include a literal “bull in a china shop” scene.  However, the characters also gracefully inhabit bright green rolling hills against azure skies. Ferdinand is an heroic, selfless, non-violent, courageous character who is concerned about the well-being of others.

Furthermore, Wonder is another top pick family and redemptive movie continuing in theaters with charm, heart, and healing solutions to conflict. It also has central themes of kindness, compassion, and unconditional love. It is based on the New York Times bestseller by the same title, it tells the inspiring, hopeful, and heartwarming story of August Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), who has facial abnormalities. In the movie, he enters the fifth grade to attend an elementary school for the first time, after homeschooling with his mother, played by Oscar Award-winning actress Julia Roberts.

The movie follows Auggie’s first year in school from his perspective and that of those around him.  While it discourages bullying, the movie encourages seeing others beyond external appearances, having quality friendships, and showing compassion. It is a family movie but there is some brief, mostly light, foul language.

It is a delightful, entertaining, uplifting movie that is suitable for older children through adults. Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson (Auggie’s father), Izabela Vidovic (Auggie’s sister, Via), Mandy Patinkin (Auggie’s school principal), and Jacob Tremblay (Auggie) give endearing performances.

Also, the new movie Samson continuing in theaters is another  top pick. It is based on the epic Biblical tale of a man blessed with super human strength and chosen by God to deliver Israel from their arch enemies — the Philistines. But when lust, greed and pride cause him to abandon his oath to God, Samson’s life takes an epic fall from grace. After being betrayed by an evil prince and an exotic temptress, the once invincible Samson is captured, blinded, and humiliated beyond despair.

But the story does not end there. As in all generations, we get to see how God uses flawed people and leaders for His divine purposes. In the beautiful redemptive story, we see how God uses imprisonment and blindness to ultimately win the spiritual victory over pride, greed and a wicked world. The historical story of Samson is recorded in the Bible in Judges 13-16 in the Bible, before the reign of King David. See my interview for the movie Samson on Sonoma Christian Home. In this story and movie, God enables Good to prevail over evil even through flawed people.

Uniquely, each week Sonoma Christian Home not only provides valuable reviews and substantive interviews for worthwhile family movies, but it also publishes the top picks in movies in theaters for all ages that are not only  entertaining; but they are redemptive, of good quality, and inspirational.

The top pick movies for the third week of March include the following:   I Can Only Imagine (PG) suitable for teens through adults, Black Panther (PG-13) for teens through adults, Peter Rabbit (PG) for all ages, The Greatest Showman (PG) for older children through adults, Ferdinand (PG) for all ages, Wonder (PG) for older children through adults, and Samson (PG-13) for teens through adults.

Although theater release dates can change, here is what is known about what and when some of the most promising redemptive and family movies are due in theaters this year:    Paul, Apostle of Christ, 3/23; God’s Not Dead 3, 3/30;  The Miracle Season, 4/13;  The Dating Project, 4/17;  Lego Movie, Sequel, 5/18; Incredibles 2, 6/15; The Jungle Book, Origins, 10/19; Mulan, 11/2; The Nutcracker and The Four Realms, 11/2; Wreck-It-Ralph, 11/21; Mary Poppins Returns, 12/21 and more.

Other promising redemptive and family movies with release dates to be announced include: Heavenquest: A Pilgrim’s ProgressIndivisibleRun the RaceUnbrokenPath to RedemptionThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver ChairPeter PanThe Little Mermaid and many more.  Watch for interviews and insightful stories for these movies on Sonoma Christian Home.

Please continue to search for and support the best movies for your friends and families. The best is yet come as long we continue to support the ongoing reformation in content and renaissance in artistry in media and movies.

As audiences continue to see good family and redemptive movies in theaters, keeping them at the top of the box office, more good movies like them will be made. Watch for many top picks this year of redemptive, Biblical and faith-based movies that continue to improve in the ongoing renaissance of artistry and reformation of content in movies. Remember that consumers can facilitate the success and wide global distribution of good redemptive movies. Remember that a movie’s success opening weekend is important.

Opening weekend ticket sales set the stage for a movie’s overall success. A strong opening weekend lays a solid foundation for international ticket sales and further sales on TV, cable, and streaming services, as well as on DVDs. If a movie “flops” on opening weekend, it may be considered of low value for other services. Big opening weekend sales are crucial to the success of a movie. One-third of the domestic gross comes from opening weekend ticket sales and sets the stage for its success in other modes of delivery.

Consumers can wisely use their power to change media and the world for eternal good. They can give support in many ways: purchasing, recommending, rating, reviewing, visiting their IMDb.com (Internet Database) pages, promoting on social media, and more.

Throughout history, great art has been produced because of the wealth, power, and influence of patrons. Today, collectively those who are interested in redemptive and family-friendly movies and media have patronage Clout! In recent years, consumer patronage has been influencing the production of edifying, enlightening, and enriching content in movies, television programs, streaming videos and more.

Redemptive movies present stories of eternal hope and restoration that are desperately needed around the world today. Today, there is great need for those who produce movies and media to produce the best work they can, to conduct careful market research to draw the most, and to exercise social responsibility, as they hold themselves accountable for the great cultural and eternal impact of their work around the world. There is a great need for consumers to understand that they can make or break products and need to exercise effective social responsibility to actively support good redemptive movies and media.

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” (Albert Einstein)

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