Marti on Hollywood and Religion

Gerardo Marti reminds us that Hollywood and religious films have a long relationship.  In his recent piece at The Christian Century, he chronicles this history.  Here is a small taste:

Herbert A. Jump was an especially articulate enthusiast for the use of motion pictures. His 1911 pamphlet The Religious Possibilities of the Motion Picture argued that film is the most important invention since the printing press. Films would make the gospel story vivid and interesting. For Jump, film projectors could become consecrated machines that attract the unchurched:
The great cry of the unchurched millions ought to ring in our ears permitting us no rest until we have availed ourselves of every conceivable device to attract them to the higher life in Jesus Christ.
 
Across the country, some churches purchased projection equipment, installed permanent machines in their auditoriums, and integrated film clips into their Sunday services. Short films became sermon illustrations. Other films were shown before Sunday school. Some pastors rented equipment and raised giant screens in large, outdoor venues. By 1920 more than 2,000 churches were actively using motion pictures in their services, and up to 15,000 church schools and clubs were using them as part of their ministry.
But the great majority of church leaders avoided films altogether. The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America established its Committee on Religious Pictures in 1923 to prime the pump for more pictures. They hoped to connect the motion picture industry with the needs of churches and help church leaders understand the problems involved in meeting the demand—especially their cost to produce. Little happened. Two years later, they tried again and it flopped again. Funds simply failed to turn up to support the expense of moviemaking for such a limited audience.