Why have some conservatives apparently shied away from going to see Dolphin Tale, a family-friendly film if ever there was one? Because Morgan Freeman is the star. And because Freeman reminded the country about his liberal politics when he complained on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, right as the movie opened, that Tea Party opposition to President Obama "is a racist thing."
Ditto for why many liberals have soured on conservative actors including Jon Voight and Gary Sinise. Sinise, star of CSI: New York on television, is a big supporter of the U.S. military and has committed the unpardonable sin of talking with Sean Hannity on the latter's radio show.
The box office, it turns out, is every bit as divided as everything else in America's increasingly political culture, according to a new poll by Penn Schoen Berland conducted for The Hollywood Reporter.
But it also turns out that the personal and expressed politics of Hollywood actors and actresses tend to be much more important to conservatives and Republicans than to liberals and Democrats. According to the poll, 35 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Tea Partiers consider a celebrity's political position before paying to see their films, compared with 20 percent of Democrats. And while a majority of Democrats think that Hollywood films are generally inspiring and morally uplifting, a majority of Republicans don't.
That's hardly a surprising difference. Hollywood clearly leans left. And many of its practitioners agree that using movies to make a case for social change is "a great way to get people to the table," Wendy Cohen, director of digital campaigns and community at Participant Media — which produced An Inconvenient Truth as well as non-documentaries such as Contagion — said on an Advertising Week panel last week, according to the New York Times.
True, conservatives are bringing forth more and more film fare that is true to their principles as well, from much of what Walden Media finances to church-produced indie winners such as Fireproof and the current Courageous. But they've got a long way to go to match the reach and influence of traditional Hollywood.
At least poll respondents agreed on a few things. Both sides like Forrest Gump (although it included Sinise in a supporting role, early in his career). Everybody's favorite action hero is Indiana Jones. And both sides are still pro-popcorn. Hey, it's a start.