Here are today’s dispatches from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

1. “Way” up. Faith-themed films continue to demonstrate their box office mojo as Sherwood Pictures’ Courageous spends a third week in the Top Ten (8) and The Way boosts its take by a whopping 127% in its second week (moving up 32 to 21 as its theater count rises). Plus, Dolphin Tale (5) and Lion King 3-D (10) are hangin’ in the Top Ten too, proving that (especially in these hard times), audiences are seeking  a little heart and inspiration.

2. Emilio Estevez (Writer/Director of The Way) suggests Hollywood has lost its way.

From Big Hollywood: The movie is beautiful travelogue of the sites along the route, from mountain vistas to beautiful old cathedrals. It’s a great backdrop for a subtle human story. After the Canadian woman cynically suggests Sheen’s character is there to march on a self-absorbed baby-boomer journey to a James Taylor soundtrack, she’s embarrassed to learn the truth. Later she admits her own dark troubles. She was a battered wife and is haunted by an abortion she underwent because she didn’t want her husband to have two females to brutalize. She says she can hear her daughter’s voice. Estevez explained, “We give voice to the unborn, and again, that is another thing Hollywood doesn’t necesssarily celebrate.”

3. New York archbishop endorses The Way:

“Ever since I was a teenager, and I first heard about the Camino – the way – I’ve wanted to make the sacred pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. The wonderful new movie from Emilio Estevez and Martin Sheen, The Way, made me feel as if I had actually journeyed on the pilgrimage – and only reinforced my determination to make this spiritual journey for myself.

As with any pilgrimage, the Camino is much more than a vacation or a sight-seeing trip. It is an opportunity for prayer and a strengthening of faith. The four pilgrims in this movie, each making the journey for a different reason, band together for an unexpected but ultimately enriching process of self-discovery as they travel together to the burial place of Saint James the Apostle.

Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted, this movie inspired me. I encourage everyone to join in The Way!”  – Archbishop Timothy Dolan

I agree. The Way is well worth seeing.

4. Operating on a wing and prayer, Sherwood Pictures stuns Hollywood.  From  The Hollywood Reporter:

Before the filmmakers for Sherwood Pictures shot the first frame of Courageous, they prayed. It’s right there in the press materials. They did the same thing with Sherwood’s previous theatrical releases, Facing the Giants in 2006 and Fireproof in 2008. None of these Christian-themed movies is up to Hollywood production standards, though by one metric — box office compared to budget — they’re some of the most profitable films in modern history.

While Iron Man 2 and Thor earned three times their production budgets, Giants was made for $100,000 and took in $10.2 million domestically, 102 times its budget. Fireproof cost $500,000 but earned $33.5 million, a multiple of 67 on its budget, and Courageous, made for $2 million, earned eight times that in its first 10 days. It bowed No. 4 at the box office with$9.1 million from 1,161 theaters.

It seems Sherwood — a company few in Hollywood have even heard of — has discovered the secret for making films on a shoestring that people will line up to see in theaters. Maybe it’s all that praying.

5. Touched by an Angel producer developing new series for Lifetime. From The Hollywood Reporter: In its bid to continue to grow its once enviable audience, Lifetime has tapped the creative talents of Touched by an Angel’s Martha Williamson. The producer, who was named one of the most powerful Christians in Hollywood in 2007, is developing a drama about a hospital chaplain. The still untitled project hails from production company Muse. The religious theme is in keeping with Williamson’s resume, which includes hosting A Touch of Encouragement, an inspiration video Website on multi-faith e-community
Comment: Television executives can’t ignore box office results forever. As more inspirational movies like The Blind Side, Soul Surfer, Dolphin Tale, Courageous and The Way continue bring in the peeps, expect to see a return to TV programming that celebrates the best in us.

6. A dog tale. From The Wrap: Waterman Entertainment has acquired the rights to the New York Times bestseller “Until Tuesday” — and has attached “Mr. Holland’s Opus” writer Patrick Sheane Duncan to adapt it, the company anounced Monday. “Until Tuesday” is about Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalván’s true story about his return from two tours of duty in Iraq. During the war, he sustained traumatic brain injury, post traumatic stress disorder and other injuries. The pressures of life were overwhelming for the captain. And then he met Tuesday, a golden retriever that became his service dog and best friend.
Comment: I am a sucker for the dog stories.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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