Thursday, January 3, 2013

First Church of Lovelyloveville

Loving film as I do, I always find myself rolling into the new year reflecting on those cinematic moments that have defined the year that has passed.  That means not just the Academy Award high points, but also those moments in the history of film that are...errr...perhaps more equivalent to the cinematic valley of the shadow of death.

In the last day or so, I've read about one such epic moment, a bizarre fumble of a movie entitled The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure.   It has something to do with a trio of Krofft Superstars-meet-Barneyesque puppety things who live in Lovelyloveville.  Their talking pillow loses some magic balloons, and they must find them.  Highjinks ensue, unwatchable saccharine hijinks which somehow end up including a singing Chazz Palmintieri.   I vaguely remember seeing the trailer for this peculiar film at some point last year, and wondering to myself just who in the world would go see such a movie.

As it turns out, just about no-one.  Though total production costs were close to $60 million, and the film played in over 2,000 theaters, the Oogielove's opening weekend was the worst in major release history. The average yield per screen that first weekend was just over $200, which translates into nine people per theatre...per day.   Total gross?  Around a million.

In terms of ROI, it makes John Carter look like Avatar.

But perhaps the most fascinating detail of this whole debacle was the degree to which the director/writer/producer...previously known as the person responsible for marketing (not creating, marketing) the Teletubbies...just can't let go of it.    In interviews, he remains convinced that his vision for the Oogieloves was just under-appreciated, and equally convinced that somehow the complete failure of the movie somehow validated it as an idea ahead of it's time.  Or even, given the press the epic failure has received, that being the least successful movie of all time will breathe new life into what he envisions as a franchise.

Churches do this, too.  Sometimes we're so wrapped up in our vision of ourselves that the reality of our life together becomes lost.  We see empty pews and waning energies, and we don't for a moment question our approach.  It's not that we've ossified worship, turning it into little more than an involuntary liturgical spasm.  It's not that we've "redefined worship" to the point that all that is left is formless chaos.  It's not that our vision of God is so sharp and cold that it hurts to touch it, or so diffuse that it is invisible to the naked eye.  It's not that we are organizationally incompetent, or that we strangle growth with layers of bureaucratic folderol.

It's that people just don't understand.  They're not ready for our genius or our passion.  Or they're lazy and inadequately rigorous in their faith.  There are a thousand reasons, none of which have to do with us or our vision of life together.

When our relationship with the reality of God's creation is broken, we can no longer realize what we have become.  And Lovelyloveville becomes not quite so lovely.

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