Making conservatives the good guys
New movie studios want to tell pro-faith, pro-family stories
Arguing that Hollywood ices out right-leaning stories and storytellers, some conservative filmmakers are starting their own studios and production companies aimed at likeminded audiences.
Movies by Christian studios and filmmakers have already achieved a number of massive successes at the box office. PureFlix, a studio founded in 2005, made more than $60 million with the God’s Not Dead franchise, leading Sony to purchase the company for an undisclosed sum. The 2018 movie I Can Only Imagine brought in $83 million at the box office and led to Christian filmmakers Jon and Andrew Erwin securing a multiyear partnership with Lionsgate. But the new wave of pro-faith and pro-family filmmaking is aimed at a broader base of consumers.
Former soap opera star Antonio Sabáto Jr. founded Conflix Studios recently in Florida. The actor said Hollywood blacklisted him for supporting President Donald Trump in 2016. He frequently tweets out Bible verses and recently called on his followers to “let prayer become like breathing.”
In an interview on the Kyle Olson Show, Sabáto said he plans to produce “good films that ultimately support our country, support our God, support our flag.” The studio plans this year to release a Western called Trail Blazers starring conservative actors such as Scott Baio, Dean Cain, Stacey Dash, and Kevin Sorbo. Conflix says it has additional pictures in development, including one about Trump’s election loss and a story of the heroism of Navy SEALs.
Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, Andrew Klavan, and other principals of The Daily Wire news site and podcast group put significant marketing and mental muscle into the outlet’s first feature film, Run Hide Fight. Though critics almost uniformly panned the movie, regular users of the review website Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 93 percent positive rating.
In a panel before the movie’s premiere, Shapiro and other Daily Wire podcasters said they want to produce and promote stories, movies, and series that align with the traditional values that Hollywood looks down its nose at. The company’s co-owner, director Jeremy Boreing, argued conservatives need to get behind those efforts with their pocketbooks and eyeballs. He said that by continuing to consume only mainstream Hollywood productions, conservatives support entertainment companies that scorn their beliefs.
But Run Hide Fight is a long way from what has typically been labeled conservative entertainment in the past. With R-rated content including violence, nudity, and foul language, the plot centers on Zoe Hull, a high school senior who just wants to move on with life away from her small town. But instead of slogging through her last agonizingly boring weeks of school, Zoe has to deal with four determined and evil school shooters who invade the cafeteria in a bomb-filled van, murder the principal and many students, and hold dozens hostage. The heroine eschews the easier route of running and hiding, choosing the safety of others over saving her own skin.
Boreing said the film’s edgy material was a feature, not a bug.
“It’s going to challenge maybe some of your sensibilities about what [conservative] content should be,” he said. “This is not a film for children; it is for young adults and adults that deals with incredibly difficult subject matter, and puts very real people in very difficult situations, and we get to see the kinds of decisions they make in it.”
He defended the film by pointing out that portraying some Bible stories would also require violence, but he said not all Daily Wire productions would come with an R rating: “We want to make films and content that our audience will want to watch; we want to compete for people’s time and money when they think about what kind of entertainment they want to engage with.”
The way things are going, The Daily Wire may soon have plenty of competition.
In February 2020, churchgoing actor Chris Pratt announced he was launching Indivisible Productions to create content with “themes which will help to bridge the growing divide in our country and world.” Not much has been heard from Pratt’s company yet, but he remains one of America’s most popular actors. Amazon Prime paid $200 million for the rights to his upcoming movie The Tomorrow War. He also has roles in 2022’s Thor: Love and Thunder and 2023’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.