Winner of the Religious Communication Association Book of the Year Award for 2008
Sanctuary Cinema provides the first history of the origins of the Christian film industry. Focusing on the early days of film during the silent era, it traces the ways in which the Church came to adopt film making as a way of conveying the Christian message to adherents. Surprisingly, rather than separating themselves from Hollywood or the American entertainment culture, early Christian film makers embraced Hollywood cinematic techniques and often populated their films with attractive actors and actresses. But they communicated their sectarian message effectively to believers, and helped to shape subsequent understandings of the Gospel message, which had historically been almost exclusively verbal, not communicated through visual media.
Despite early successes in attracting new adherents with the lure of the film, the early Christian film industry ultimately failed, in large part due to growing fears that film would corrupt the church by substituting an American “civil religion” in place of solid Christian values and amidst continuing Christian unease about the potential for the glorification of images to revert to idolatry. While radio eclipsed the motion picture as the Christian communication media of choice by the 1920, the early film makers had laid the foundations for the current re-emergence of Christian film and entertainment, from Veggie Tales to The Passion of the Christ.
“Thoroughly researched and free of jargon, this book fills the gap in film history.“
“Lindvall provides his readers with the largely untold story of the beginning decades of the Christian film industry. Now, almost a hundred years later, message movies with a religious core are re-emerging. To understand their current pitfalls and promise, Sanctuary Cinema is important reading. It’s also great fun!“
-Robert K. Johnston,Professor of Theology and Culture, Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue
“Lindvall offers a history of the Protestant Church’s role in making and promoting Christian movies, from the very beginning of the industry (circa 1895) through the end of the silent era. . . . This well-researched book is recommended for large academic and theology collection.“
-Library Journal XPress
“Provides a masterful and fascinating survey of the history of the Christian silent film industry and its demise.“
-John Lyden,author of Film as Religion: Myths, Morals, and Rituals
“It is an engaging story of cooperation, conflict and critique, one that contributes significantly to contemporary studies of religion, popular culture, and the media.“
-Journal of the American Academy of Religion
“Lindvall’s book provides a wonderful and wonderfully readable history of this important period. Issues that churches and those interested in communication, culture, and religion wrestle with today turn out to have appeared almost 100 years ago. Anyone interested in film, religion, theology, and culture should read this book.“
-Paul A. Soukup,S.J., Santa Clara University