In this month's round-up of news in the faith and family space, the Catholics in Media Associates (CiMA) Awards rises again; trailers from Jesus Revolution and season 3 of The Chosen; The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power draws criticism but boosts Amazon.
Catholic Media Honors Catholic Productions
The L.A.-based group Catholics in Media Associates (CiMA) awoke from a long pandemic nap with its first in-person awards in a while.
What is CiMA? From the website:
Catholics in Media Associates was formed by working professionals in the entertainment industry, whose purpose is to share personal concerns of faith and spirituality as it is experienced in the workplace.
From that early beginning came the CiMA Awards, recognizing those projects and people in the entertainment industry who, by their work, have made clearer the Word of God. These awards were created to promote and applaud media professionals and films, television programs, and other entertainment forms that uplift the human spirit, promote human dignity, and help us better understand what it is to be part of the human family.
In past years, CiMA has honored many secular productions, but this year, the Mass and awards breakfast, held Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022, at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, had a distinctly Catholic flavor.
Father Stu, starring Mark Wahlberg in the fact-inspired biopic about a man's unlikely trip to the priesthood, took the award for feature film, with writer/director Rosalind Ross accepting in a pre-recorded video.
The documentary award went to Paulist Productions' Hollywood Priest: The Story of Fr. Bud Kieser, with writer/producer Father Tom Gibbons, C.S.P., and producer Maria-Elena Pineda accepting for the story of the Paulist priest and TV producer.
Episodic TV went to the Gospel-inspired series The Chosen. Star Jonathan Roumie -- who plays Jesus in the show -- accepted in person, along with a video message from series creator Dallas Jenkins.
Veteran producer Vin di Bona won the Entertainment Legend award, and regaled the crowd with stories of working on Insight, the TV series produced by Fr. Kieser.
Trailers From The Jesus Revolution, and The Chosen Season 3
Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie is making a major splash in The Chosen (including meeting the pope -- again), which launches its third season on Nov. 18-22 by releasing the first two episodes in theaters, as a Fathom Event.
Here's the new trailer about all that:
Then, early next year, he'll be seen as another long-haired, bearded guy talking about God, as the hippie preacher Lonnie Frisbee in Jesus Revolution, from the Erwin Brothers' Kingdom Story Company, part of Lionsgate.
The story is mostly about Evangelical pastors Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer) and Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney). Affecting both their lives and ministries is Frisbee, a major force in what became known as the Jesus Movement in the 1970s.
Begun in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the late 1960s, the Jesus Movement became a national and international phenomenon among young spiritual seekers. It subsided in the 1980s but left its mark on aspects of Evangelical Christian culture, especially Contemporary Christian Music.
Frisbee's life was more complicated and controversial than the film depicts (he died of AIDS in 1993), but Jesus Revolution still earned an R for language, sexual references and drug use. It hits theaters in February 2023.
The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power Gets Mixed Reviews But Big Numbers
In a deep dive, IndieWire.com examines Amazon Prime's The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power -- based on the work of Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien -- from three angles: ratings, ROI (return on investment) and cultural buzz.
As the post's sub-headline says:
Data says "The Rings of Power" is a huge hit. Online buzz suggests otherwise. But there's no mystery to the divergence — the show was made this way.
While fans and critics, especially Tolkien aficionados, have had decidedly mixed reactions to the show, what data we're seeing out of Amazon suggests it did well with viewers in general.
Whether it did well enough to justify its massive cost is another question. Also, since people don't just get Amazon Prime to watch shows (mostly, it's to order stuff), it's tricky to gauge the total audience.
Even when Nielsen chimed in, things remained fuzzy. Again, the numbers on their own look strong. “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” was No. 1 with a bullet on the streaming charts. Over its first few weeks, the series is nearly matching full seasons of Netflix shows in total minutes viewed (despite only two, three, or four episodes being available).
And since success is relative, IndieWire asks:
It’s clearly a hit. With “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” the question isn’t if it’s a hit; the question is whether it’s enough of a hit. While “TROP” is on pace to be Prime Video’s most-watched series to date, it’s not blowing past far cheaper investments.
The show apparently didn't generate the online chatter that other shows do (like, for example, HBO's twisted and violent fantasy prequel House of the Dragon), but IndieWire argues that LOTR:ROP, being more or less made for a family audience (no sex or bad language, but lots of violence), was not engineered to generate cultural buzz.
Here's the trailer for the season finale (no word yet on when Season 2, which has begun filming in the U.K., will be released):
Images: Mark Wahlberg in Father Stu (top); winners of the CiMA Awards, plus friends and supporters (at the far right is FTP Head of Production Father David Guffey, C.S.C.)/Photo: Family Theater Productions (embedded)
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.