The film Argo may have been the big winner at last night’s Academy Awards, but how many Americans were actually willing to fork out the dough to go see it? According to polling data recently released, Argo was especially popular among Baby Boomers, but not very attractive to Evangelical Christians nor to the industry’s most die-hard movie-goers: “Mosaics” (young people born between 1984 and 2002).
Last night’s Oscar winners were announced only a few days after the Barna Research Group released its statistics on the tastes of different generations and faiths toward last year’s array of Hollywood movies. The research was based on online surveys with 1,075 adults who were randomly chosen from the U.S., and the margin of error is estimated to be within 2.8 percentage points, putting the study at the 95% confidence level.
The study rated Americans’ tastes for several of the Academy’s award winners, as well as several popular films that did not receive any awards.Comparing the results of the study to last night's winners, one might ask: Are the Academy Awards skewed to favor the tastes of non-Christian Baby Boomers?
Argo won the Academy Awards last night for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Film Editing, and the pinnacle Best Motion Picture of the year. But according to the Barna study, the highest group of people of faith who saw that movie—the story of a group trying to escape Iran during the 1981 U.S. embassy hostage crisis—were Catholics, at just over 4.5%. At the same time, 17% of people with no faith identification saw Argo.
The study shows that about 10% of Baby Boomers paid to see Argo at the theaters, while only 6% of the “Elders” (people born in 1945 or earlier) saw it, 6% of “Busters” (people born between 1965 and 1983) saw it, and only 5% of Mosaics saw it. Only 3% of Evangelical Christians went to see Argo at the theaters.
Favorites Among Baby Boomers
Movies appearing to have had the greatest appeal to Baby Boomers were ones based upon real-life stories, such as Argo or Lincoln—the Steven Spielberg film which received the most nominations of any film at the Oscars this year. Some speculate that these two films received a disproportionate number of nominations and awards compared to their box office performance due to the disproportionate number of members of the Academy who are Baby Boomers. Lincoln has earned $178.6 million from the U.S. Box Office (ranked #14 for 2012 domestic gross), and Argo, $129 million (ranked #22).
Baby Boomers led the pack of movie-goers who went to see Lincoln with 14% of them reporting to have seen the film. 13% of the elder generation saw Lincoln, while 10% of Mosaics and 8% of Busters saw it. Remarkably, only 3% of Evangelicals reported seeing Lincoln, which some have criticized as a propaganda piece of revisionist history.
Although Lincoln received 12 nominations, the movie about the 16th president only won two: the Oscars for Best Achievement in Production Design, and for Best Performance of an Actor in a leading Role (Daniel Day-Lewis as President Abraham Lincoln).
The nominated film which created the least disparity in polling popularity was Les Miserables, which 18% of Evangelical Christians, 14% of Mosaics, 10% of Elders, 9% of Baby Boomers, and 8% of Busters reported seeing. That movie has earned $146.6 million at the domestic box office so far ($394.9 million world-wide) and is ranked #19 on highest domestic grosses of 2012. The musical based on a novel by Victor Hugo won three awards last night: Best Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, and (as anticipated) Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Anne Hathaway).
Other Oscar-nominated films received a great deal of disparity between generations and people of differing faiths. For example, the James Bond movie Skyfall, which won the Best Original Song, was popular among Mosaics (26% of them saw it) while no more than 13% of the other generations went to see it, and only 12% of Evangelicals reported seeing it.
Favorites Among Christians
Barna’s research appears to show that Evangelical Christians were most likely to be attracted to films that presented a stark good-verses-evil morality tale. 42% of them report going to see The Avengers, which is ranked #1 as the highest grossing film of 2012 but won no awards at the Oscars. 22% of Evangelical Christians saw The Hobbit, and 16% of them went to see the documentary 2016. Although the movie The Hunger Games stirred some controversy among Evangelicals last year, 36% of them reported seeing that film at theaters. None of the Evangelical Christians’ favorite films (except perhaps Les Miserables) won any Academy Awards.
The average person of “no faith” reports seeing three movies at the box officer per year, while the average Evangelical Christian reports seeing 2.7 movies at the box offer per year. Mosaics report seeing 3.4 movies per year. 32% of Evangelicals say they would seek out movies that dealt with more religious or spiritual themes.
The Barna Research Group defined “Evangelical Christians” for the purpose of this study as people considered “born-again” and who say “their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as ‘evangelical.’ ”
To see more on the study from the Barna Research Group, see their article Superheroes, Presidents and a Girl on Fie: 2012 at the Movies.