[I am working on a project that may become a book on the most influential evangelicals leaders of our generation, since 1976, and the impact they’ve had on the church and their times. I will introduce them briefly on this blog from time to time. Who should be on this list?]
#44. Philip Anschutz. Media mogul b.1939
The most influential and effective evangelical Christian in Hollywood (he actually lives in Colorado) is zealously private and one of the richest men in the world. Oil magnate and multi-faceted entrepreneur Philip Anschutz has done three interviews in the last four decades and his company releases virtually no information on sales or strategy related to his relatively recent foray into media.
Almost a decade ago, Anschutz decided to do something about the moral decline of mainstream movies. He now owns two production companies—the family-friendly Walden Media and the more broadly focused Bristol Bay Productions.
“My wife and I now have a number of grandchildren who are growing up surrounded by products of this culture,” Anschutz said in 2004. “So four or five years ago I decided to stop cursing the darkness.” He added: “Hollywood as an industry can at times be insular and doesn’t at times understand the market very well. I saw a chance with this move to attempt some small improvement in the culture.”
The companies’ creative teams have produced films as Amazing Grace, Charlotte’s Web, Bridge to Terabithia, Ray, and, most prominently, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, two of seven planned movies based on C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Walden is partnering with 20th Century Fox to produce The Screwtape Letters, based on the novel by Lewis, due for a 2010 release. Fox is also a partner for the third Narnia film, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader .
Recently, Anschutz has provided the funding for television advertisements, billboards, and Regal Cinemas ads for his “For a Better Life” campaign. The campaign, while not explicitly Christian, promotes “faith” and “integrity,” using dramatic vignettes, and characters such as Shrek and Kermit the Frog.
In addition to the film production companies and Regal theaters, Anschutz owns Qwest Communications, the premier provider of high-speed Internet, home phone and cell phones–and some 100 other businesses. Among them: railroads; oil companies; cattle ranching; wind farms; national park concessions; professional hockey [LA Kings], basketball [owns stakes in the LA Lakers and the Sacramento Kings] and soccer teams [co-founded Major League Soccer and owns multiple teams, including the LA Galaxy, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes, New York / New Jersey Metro Stars, and the Kansas City Wizards]; the Staples Center and Kodak Theater in Los Angeles; the 02 Dome in London. He recently purchased the conservative journal, The Weekly Standard.
One Narnia fan wrote:
“At the start of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we find C. S. Lewis’s mythical world of talking animals, satyrs, fauns, centaurs, and dwarves trapped in the Hundred Year Winter – a time where evil reigns and creativity has given way to cruelty. And so it remains until a mighty lion messiah roars onto the scene to awaken warmth and hope. Philip Anschutz is no messiah, but he has made it his ambition to lead Hollywood out of a cynical and amoral ice age. Will this self-made Colorado billionaire become modern entertainment’s rescuer, a lion-hearted savior of American film?”