Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Monday, June 15, 2015
I saw Jurassic World over the weekend. The fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise, the movie was just what I expected and what many reviewers are saying.
One critic called the film "harebrained but never boring." Another said, "Fittingly, it's a theme park ride itself: bumpy, and at times worryingly poorly maintained, but you'll laugh and scream." Still another: "It may not equal the humor and inventiveness of the original film, but death has never been so much fun." The New York Times wasn't overly impressed: "In reality, there's more flab than muscle packed on this galumphing franchise reboot, which, as it lumbers from scene to scene, reminds you of what a great action god Steven Spielberg is. Too bad he didn't take the reins on this."My purpose today is not to review the movie (I encourage you to read James Peel's review here.) Rather, it is to ask why the film exists. Jurassic World is the 13th sequel to hit movie theaters so far this year. We have 17 more to go, including new installments in the Mission: Impossible, Terminator, Hunger Games, Star Wars and the James Bond franchises.
Why so many sequels? And why are so many of them action films?
Derek Thompson explains in The Atlantic. He begins with a history lesson: in 1950, movies were the third-largest retail business in the U.S., after grocery stores and automobiles. Every week, 60 percent of the country went to the cinema, creating an audience share larger than today's Super Bowl. Virtually all the films made by the major studios made money. The typical American bought 20-30 tickets a year.
Today, the average moviegoer buys about four. Television and the Internet have encroached on territory once the exclusive purview of movie theaters. As a result, when a movie is successful, Hollywood repeats the formula. Again and again and again. Thompson concludes: "Hollywood has become sensational at predicting what its audiences want to see. And, ironically, for that very reason, it's become better at making relentlessly average movies."
There is an important lesson to be remembered here.
The age-old key to marketing is to give the people what they want. If the "Golden Rule" is to treat people the way you want to be treated, the "Sales Rule" is to treat them the way they want to be treated. The same psychology applies to ministry. Jesus met felt needs so he could meet spiritual needs. (Tweet this) Paul quoted Greek philosophers when he spoke with Greeks, Jewish Scriptures when he spoke with Jews.
If you want to help people follow Jesus, begin by discovering who they're following now. Pay attention to what's popular on television, the Internet, and in the theaters. Media professionals make their living by understanding their audience. Popularity is an effective tool for persuasion.
Start where people are, building relationships on common ground. Then lead them where they need to go by demonstrating God's compassion in yours. When people know you love them, they will wonder why. And they are likely to want what you have.
The most effective evangelist of all time explained his secret: "I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Publication: June 15, 2015
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