LDS or Mormon cinema (informally Mollywood, a portmanteau of Mormon and Hollywood) usually refers to films with themes relevant to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The terminology has also been used to refer to films that do not necessarily reflect Mormon themes but have been made by Mormon filmmakers. Many of these films are screened extensively within high LDS population centers such as Utah, Idaho, and Arizona and do not regularly reach mainstream viewers in other parts of the world.
LDS cinema films might be considered distinct from LDS Church movies like Legacy and Testaments, since they are commercial and not produced for teaching or proselytizing LDS doctrine. LDS cinema is usually produced and directed by Latter-day Saints. The films typically have LDS themes and are often marketed especially toward Latter-day Saints, though there has been an effort to "cross over" into more mainstream themes.
Films about Latter-day Saints are nothing new. The Church sponsored the production and release of the feature-length films One Hundred Years of Mormonism (1913) and The Life of Nephi (1914). Films about Mormons, especially lurid pulp fiction-inspired tales of hypnotic missionaries and Western pioneer stories, were a staple of the early silent, black and white film era. With films made primarily by LDS filmmakers for an LDS audience, the "LDS Cinema" movement is distinct from the broader use of Mormon characters in mainstream Hollywood films. The "LDS Cinema" movement began around 1999, when Richard Dutcher's company Zion Films released God's Army commercially. The film, which was produced on a budget of $300,000, grossed about $2.5 million at the box office and many more millions of dollars worth of video purchases. Observing the market success of God's Army, many other LDS studios began producing films.
Although God's Army dealt with the overtly religious subject of LDS missionaries, and many LDS comedies are sometimes incomprehensible to people outside the LDS Church, a growing trend moves toward making LDS-themed movies more broadly accessible. The acclaimed World War II movie Saints and Soldiers is perhaps the most successful crossover LDS film to date. More accessible films have been thought by some as likely to ensure larger potential markets. However, "accessibility" has not necessarily translated into greater box office earnings or critical acclaim than achieved by the more "insider"-oriented LDS Cinema films.
LDS comedies in particular have been panned by critics, who have branded most efforts thus far inaccessible and unfunny to those outside the intended market. Such movies have frequently been perceived as overly reliant upon the audience's extensive knowledge of LDS practices and LDS cultural norms.
One aspect of the culture of LDS cinema is heightened concern over MPAA film ratings. Many Mormons feel disinclined to view movies rated R, so LDS film producers risk greatly diminished revenue for exceeding a PG or PG-13 rating. One PG-13 film, The Book of Mormon Movie, Vol. 1, gained its rating for depicting a decapitation that occurs in the Book of Mormon. Producers defended the scene as essential. Some critics[who?] leveled a common complaint about the MPAA – that it awards a higher rating to movies not produced by the major film studios. Nonetheless, producers re-edited the movie to earn a PG rating for DVD distribution. Another film, Saints and Soldiers received an R-rating prior to film festival screening. Producers edited the movie to receive PG-13 for commercial distribution.
The Other Side of Heaven (2001) – Not by an LDS studio. Although special pains were taken to remove overt LDS references, it is often counted as LDS cinema because it was brought to fruition by an LDS producer, and is based on John H. Groberg's experiences in Tonga as a LDS missionary, as documented in his memoir In the Eye of the Storm.
Just Let Go (2015) – Based on the story of Chris Williams who forgives a young man after they each faced a devastating incident.
Saturday's Warrior (1989) – Popular release among Latter-day Saints of the De Azevedo and Stewart musical, directed by Bob Williams. De Azevedo released a remake of the movie in 2016.
Out of Step (2002) – A young dance student leaves Utah for schooling in New York City. She falls in love with two different men and must choose between them.
Charly (2002) – A movie, based on a book by the same name written by, Jack Weyland; about a man who has all of his life planned. His belief, and life. It all changes when a girl walks into his life and changes it.
Several comedies, mostly produced by Dave Hunter, have also been released. Because the humor of these films often relies on specifically Utah-centric Latter Day Saint culture, they tend to have a smaller audience than the other LDS subgenres, even among Mormon viewers.
The Singles Ward (2002) – The title refers to an LDS congregation (ward) composed only of single adults. A comedy with romantic aspects.
The Home Teachers (2004) – Slapstick comedy about polar opposite home teachers that "fulfill" their responsibility on the last day of the month. "Home teaching" is the LDS practice of a home teaching companionship – a holder of the Melchizedek Priesthood and a 14-year-old teacher or older – visiting and teaching families in their ward each month.
Baptists at Our Barbecue (2004) – Longfellow – consistently called "Longwinded" by the inhabitants – is a small town that is religiously divided equally between Baptists and Mormons. A newcomer becomes the tie-breaker. Rather than tilt the scales he decides to bridge the religious divide by organizing an all-faiths barbecue. Based on a novel by Robert Farrell Smith.
Church Ball (2006) – In the last year of a basketball league, a church team does not want to place last again. The storyline juxtaposes the desire to win at all costs with the expectation of sportsmanlike conduct in church sports.
Inspired Guns (2014) – Two Mormon missionaries begin teaching two members in the mafia in a case of mistaken identity.
Astle, Randy (2013). "Mormons and Cinema". In Hunter, James Michael. Mormons and Popular Culture: the global influence of an American phenomenon. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger (ABC-CLIO). ISBN9780313391675. OCLC776495102.