Foundation rates films on Christian values and themes

Monday, June 28, 2010 | 6:35 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — The Dove Foundation has for two decades placed a blue dove seal on any film it considers family-friendly, and now the organization is expanding its rating system to accommodate Christian retailers.

Many of those retailers are meeting in St. Louis this week at the International Christian Retail Show. About 7,000 people are expected for the convention, which runs through Wednesday.

The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Dove Foundation is introducing a purple "Faith-Based" seal that warns of raw images or language in otherwise Christian-theme movies, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday. It also plans a gold "Faith-Friendly" seal indicating a Christian-theme movie is suitable for a family audience.

Francine Evans, who manages the Lifeway Christian Store in Bridgeton, said Christian movies today tackle touchy subjects such as drugs, domestic violence and abortion.

"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."

Christian retail sales of videos increased 26 percent in 2009, even as music sales declined 1 percent, according to the Christian Music Trade Association and Nielsen Christian SoundScan.

"A consumer looks to Christian retail to find family-friendly entertainment," said Curtis Riskey, executive director of the Christian Bookselling Association. "The ratings system helps identify for the Christian consumer the kinds of things they can expect in a movie."

In addition to the Dove seal, the foundation's new Faith-Based seal will include letters indicating any offending content: "V'' for violence, "D'' for drugs and alcohol, "S'' for sex, for example.

The Dove Foundation's new gold "Faith-Friendly" seal will alert consumers that a movie 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.

Christian film making has flourished since Trinity Broadcasting Network's 1999 "The Omega Code." In 2004, Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" made $371 million at the box office and is the most successful R-rated movie of all time. The first two Narnia movies, based on the Christian-theme C.S. Lewis novels, together brought in $434 million in 2005 and 2008.

Some large evangelical churches have their own film divisions, and both Sony and Twentieth Century Fox own marketing or production departments dedicated to Christian films.

Fans of Christian movies can now choose between squeaky-clean evangelistic efforts such as Sherwood Films' "Fireproof," about a firefighter's marriage, and grittier fare, such as this year's "To Save a Life," about teen depression, suicide and bullying.

Bobby Downes, a Christian producer, said retailers want the rating system.

"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," Downes said.

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