Faith and Film at the Historic Georgetown Palace Theater
Three years after being shut down due to the pandemic, Cinema & Religion returns as Faith and Film, hosted at The Palace Theater* on the historic square in Georgetown, Texas. The series is split in two, meeting four Sundays in July and four in October.
Now in its eighth season, this informal class is produced by film scholar Dr. Philip J. Hohle, an adjunct professor of Mass Media at Mary Hardin-Baylor University. A member of the prestigious Society for the Cognitive Study of the Moving Image (SCSMI), Hohle has authored several books and articles on viewer responses to movies.
In The Filmmaker’s Prayer: Cinema & Religion, Hohle argues that virtually all movies project a surprising degree of religiosity. “Most good films subtly express a certain worldview, a statement about the human condition-Who am I? Am I a good person? What is my redeeming purpose in life? Certainly, those are some of the fundamental questions of religion, and many movies invite an examination from that perspective. If we don’t, we miss some profound ideas and lessons.” Noted Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Seminary, Dr. Robert Johnson, has stated that the cinema’s storytellers have become the new priests of our culture. As such, the movie theater has become another great competitor for the church because great movies inspire people in profound ways.
The eight-week class is funded through a grant by Zion Lutheran Church and School of Walburg, Texas. The course concept is similar in approach to an ESL class for non-native speakers of English, but in this case, it is entertainment as a second language. This series was designed to help viewers develop a higher sense of media literacy and fluency in interpreting the films they see. Faith and Film is designed for anyone who wants to develop a higher awareness or appreciation for the inspirational power of movies.
The course will feature free screenings of selected films at The Palace each evening. Every movie is followed by an open discussion led by Hohle and other area scholars and theologians. “There is no better setting to truly consider the richness of the film narrative than in a comfortable movie theater with an audience,” Hohle said. “While our respondents primarily speak through the lens of Christianity, we really learn from each other as we take the time afterward to unpack and share the personal religious experience the film provides for each of us.”
The series resumes Oct. 8 through 29 at The Palace. Registration is open for the July class. (Link will take you to Zion Lutheran events page.)
REGISTER HERE. (Registration for October series opens Sept. 12)
*The Faith and Film Informal Class is a production of Parabolic Media, made possible through grants from Zion Lutheran Church and School and other patrons. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the staff, governing board, or patrons of The Georgetown Palace Theater.
A: You may see a church from time to time offering a class in conversational English for immigrants-English as a second language-to help them make sense of a world in which an unfamiliar tongue is spoken. Essentially, these classes are entertainment as a second language, helping improve the media literacy and fluency of anyone who watches movies. Zion Lutheran Church of Walburg has contracted with Parabolic Media to curate a series of classes for anyone interested in registering.
Q: Why not call it Christianity and Film?
A: While this series will certainly be filtered through the lens of Christianity, one has to admit that alternative faiths and worldviews are the foundation of many good movies-even some that are labeled Christian movies. In fact, virtually all movies promote the values and beliefs of the filmmaker.
Q: Why should I improve my media literacy?
A: Dr. Robert Johnson (Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Seminary) has stated that the cinema’s storytellers have become the new priests of our culture. As such, the movie theater has become another great competitor for the church because great movies inspire (or disturb) people in profound ways. “Consciously or unconsciously, all filmmakers have an ethical purpose in their work. All movies have a moral. In both obvious and subtle ways, filmmakers infuse their worldview into the story. If you think about it, the movie is the filmmaker’s prayer.” (quote from the curriculum, The Filmmaker’s Prayer).
Q: What if I am not a Christian?
A: It is our primary aim to uncover and compare the beliefs promoted in the movie to a mainstream Christian worldview. Admittedly, our discussion leaders will likely interpret the film through a conservative Lutheran lens. However, people of all faiths and religions are invited and encouraged to share their insights. There will be no judgment.
Q: Where and when will the classes be held?
A: Responding to this need in our community, Parabolic Media has made arrangements with The Palace on the square in Georgetown to use the theater as a suitable classroom. This enables us to examine films in their most natural and powerful state. Unlike a movie you merely watch for entertainment, we include a discussion-a careful examination and reflection after the screening that will help us all understand the shared experience.
The classes are held on Sundays in July and October, beginning at 5:30 p.m. and ending sometime around 8:30 p.m. (depending on the length of the film).
Summer Series (Concluded)
July 2, 2023
July 9, 2023
July 16, 2023
July 23, 2023
Fall Series (October)
Oct. 8, 2023
Oct. 15, 2023
Oct. 22, 2023
Oct. 29, 2023
Q: What movies will you examine?
A: Movies are carefully selected for this course. Use links below to see what questions are raised by the movies selected for examination in October.
A: Our approach is not to ask if we should show films like these but ask if these more difficult scenes and themes somehow make the film exempt from critical examination. We find that many R-rated films are in need of close scholarly, theological, and philosophical analysis. However, if you normally avoid such films, you can simply skip the class that week. Or, like the scientist, don goggles, gloves, and a lab coat when examining such artifacts.
Q: How does the informal class differ from a traditional college class?
A: Like a college class, a curriculum is provided to assist in learning. Far beyond a simple appreciation for a film’s aesthetics, participants will fully examine their personal and societal responses to the worldviews promoted in popular movies. Learners will be equipped and inspired to identify, interpret, and respond to these cultural artifacts.
Q: Will I have homework if I attend the informal class?
A: No. We only suggest that you become at least marginally familiar with the curriculum material provided (a book). In our discussion, you can add your voice to the mix or just quietly enjoy the conversation.
Q: Do I get academic credit?
A: The class is for your own edification. However, those who attend all eight classes (July and October) will be eligible to receive a certificate of completion upon request.
Q: What is the cost of the course?
A: We do not sell tickets as a theater would do. The cost of the series is configured as a registered seat for the class each night, which includes a respondent’s lesson, a screening, and a discussion. All learners receive a digital copy of the curriculum, drinks, and refreshments (see options below). The participant should register for enough seats for themselves and their guest and can use them in any combination for any night. (Open seating.)
Example, four seats could be used by a group of four people covering registration for one night’s class, or two people could attend two classes on two separate nights.
There are two basic options.
Option 1 Includes the series curriculum and two drinks (beer and/or wine) per seat. Water and refreshments are also included (popcorn). $35 per registered seat. Multiple seats can be used in any combination of participants and nights. $10 per seat.
Example: Two people planning to attend all four classes would need eight seats for $80.
Option 2 Includes everything in Option 1 but also includes an entrée from the Wildfire Grill’s Saloon Menu. $20 per seat.
Example: Two people planning to attend all four classes would need eight seats for $160.
For the sake of simplicity, these options assume the additional participants will be are to be eligible for the same meal/refreshment option as the original registrant.
Southwest Caesar Salad (large)
Tri Colored Chips & Queso
Tri Colored Chips & Queso w/guacamole
Jeni’s Pail of Corn Dog Bites (12)
Flame Kissed Bacon Wrap Stuff Shrimp (5)
w/o Wildfire Option
With Wildfire Option
The current Wildfire Saloon menu menu items offered for this series will be found (and selected) on the RSVP form participants will use. One light and regular beer option will be available and one red and one white wine selection. Brand may change from week to week. For adults 21 and over.
Q: May I bring someone with me?
A: For both series, we highly encourage everyone to invite other learners in order to spread literacy in our community. The following options are ideal for groups such as Bible studies, home groups, friends from work, or families. Again, all attendees must register and RSVP so we can make sure seats are available. All will receive a digital copy of the curriculum.
All unused seats, that is, those paid for but not claimed on our RSVP form on any given week will be given to our volunteers, our respondents, or any new walk-in participants from the community.
Q: How do I register?
A: Click the link below. It will take you to the Zion Church Center site, where you can complete the process for you (whom they call the Attendee) and select the registration option that best suits you (or your group). Then you will receive a confirmaiton email with a registration number. Save that number to use when filling the RSVP form for each night’s class-forward it to your guests who will need the number for them to RSVP.
A: Our goal is to make literate viewer-critics who can put the story in proper perspective and help others do the same. We are recruiting people who have a passion for helping their friends, family members, and neighbors grow in their literacy. Not unlike active Christians, the de-churched and unchurched also struggle to recognize their purpose in God’s plan. For many of us, bringing guests to the theater will be easier than cajoling them to attend church on Sunday. So instead, literally, they will be taking the Gospel to the public square. The class is necessary because most viewers can only unconsciously process the messages filmmakers embed in their stories.
Do you know anyone who would rather talk about movies that spiritual matters? Watch this humorous video:
Q: What or who is Parabolic Media?
A: Dr. Philip Hohle of Parabolic Media is a trained scholar in the study of how people interpret movies. He has published and presented on this topic through the International Society for the Cognitive Studies of the Moving Image (SCSMI). He also has taught film interpretation and media law at the university level. With the help of other scholars in the area, he hosted the series Cinema and Religion at the Moviehouse & Eatery in Austin for eight years. His book, The Filmmaker’s Prayer, was written to serve as the curriculum for this series.
Q: What if the weather is bad? What if no seats are left after I register?
A: Parabolic Media will send announcements to the email address you used in your registration if the event is canceled due to weather (or any other reason) and a makeup date is not available, a pro-rated reimbursement will be made. Likewise, if the theater reaches capacity, those unable to get a seat will be eligible for a partial refund.