He's a Denver, Colorado-based billionaire whose net worth
was recently tabbed by Forbes magazine at $7.6 billion; his corporate
holdings include the nation's largest movie theater chain, Regal Entertainment,
some of the world's most prominent sports and entertainment venues, and a stack
of professional sports teams, including the National Hockey League's Los
Angeles Kings, and several soccer teams, including the Los Angeles Galaxy. He
heads Clarity Media Group, which owns the Examiner chain of free
The native-born Kansan made his first fortune in the oil
business before moving into railroads and then telecommunications. In 2005,
Waldon Media, his Hollywood production company -- in partnership with Walt
Disney Pictures -- released "The Chronicles of
Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," a $200 million dollar
film adapted from C.S. Lewis' children's book of the same title. "The
Chronicles" has earned more than $700 million worldwide.
The vast majority of Americans have never heard of him --
which is just the way he prefers it.
He's Philip Anschutz and he's dead set on transforming
Hollywood and the American cultural landscape. "Hollywood as an industry
can at times be insular and doesn't at times understand the market very
well," he told an audience at the conservative Hillsdale
College in 2004. "[I] saw a chance with this move to attempt some
small improvement in the culture," he explained.
And he is clearly making his mark. In mid-October, Variety
reported that Waldon Media was "set to unleash seven pics during the next
year aimed squarely at the moviegoing demographic that Disney used to own: kids
The marketing of "The Chronicles" was savvy,
deliberate and a pivotal moment for Anschutz's production company. The film's
pre-release promotion campaign was modeled -- sans controversy -- on the
pre-release efforts employed by Mel Gibson while publicizing "The Passion
of the Christ," which became a worldwide box office phenomenon.
Promotion was geared toward churches and conservative
evangelical groups. The Christian Post reported that "several
influential Christian organizations," including Dr. James
on the Family, "endorsed and promoted" the movie.
"Narnia Sneak Peek" events were held in churches
around the country. "At the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.,
members of the 20,000-plus congregation viewed exclusive clips, received free
gift bags full of outreach material, and were treated to a special live
performance by [Christian music star] Steven Curtis Chapman," the Christian
Post reported. "In addition, C.S. Lewis' stepson and co-producer of
the film, Doug Gresham; Walden Media President and film's visionary Michael
Flaherty; and other Narnia filmmakers discussed the making of the movie."
Although Anschutz tends to not crave media attention
personally, and he hasn't dropped buckets of cash on right-wing enterprises as
families have, he nevertheless is a longtime contributor to both conservative
and Christian causes. He's also a Republican Party donor and a George W. Bush
Over the years he has: helped fund the notoriously anti-gay
Amendment 2, a ballot initiative designed to overturn a Colorado state law
giving equal rights to gays and lesbians, and helped fund the Discovery
Institute, a conservative
philanthropy supported "think tank" based in Seattle, Washington,
that promotes intelligent design and critiques some theories of evolution.
He has bankrolled such notable conservative groups as the Media
Research Center, a group responsible for nearly all indecency complaints to
the FCC in 2003, the New York-based Institute for American Values, another
conservative philanthropy supported
organization that campaigns for marriage and against single parenting, Enough
is Enough, whose president and chair of its Board of Directors is Donna
Rice Hughes (the major figure in the sex scandal that ended the 1987 campaign
of Gary Hart, in the Democratic presidential primary), and which claims to be
"Lighting the way to protect children and families from the dangers of illegal
Internet pornography and sexual predators," and Morality in the Media,
established in 1962 "to combat obscenity and uphold decency standards in
More recently he has provided the funding for television
advertisements, billboards, and Regal Cinemas ads for his "For a Better
Life" campaign. The campaign, while not explicitly religious, promotes
"faith" and "integrity," using characters such as Shrek and
Kermit the Frog. The ads were produced by Bonneville Communications, a Salt
Lake City agency connected to the Mormon Church.
Anschutz is not only out to change the culture of Hollywood,
he intends to transform the geographic landscape as well. On Sunday, October
14, "hours before the bill-signing deadline," the Sacramento Bee
recently editorialized, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed
Assembly Bill 1053, "mak[ing] it easier" for Anschutz "to obtain
state housing bond funds for a mega project he is spearheading in Los
Those funds had been previously reserved for use "by
developers, nonprofits and agencies with a mission of building [affordable
infill] housing," the editorial noted. AB 1053 "alters that formula
by allowing Business Improvement Districts -- entities often controlled by
retail and office developers -- to compete for these funds. Not surprisingly,
Anschutz [who owns the Staples Center, home to the Los Angeles Lakers
basketball team] belongs to a business district that wants to redevelop a
corridor near the Staples Center, one of his many Los Angeles holdings."
The Los Angeles Times pointed out that the bill
allows Anschutz "to tap millions of dollars in state housing funds to
improve the streets near the downtown arena and the company's $2.5-billion L.A.
Live development . . . allow[ing] Anschutz's firm, through a business
improvement district in the area, to partner with the city to apply for tens of
millions of dollars earmarked for street improvements to support affordable
The Times also noted that "Companies
affiliated with the Denver businessman have donated $225,000 in the last three
years to Schwarzenegger's California Recovery Team." A month earlier, the Times
reported, "Companies owned or controlled" by Anschutz were
"major donors to politicians and their ballot measures."
Anschutz companies donated $927,000 "to political
causes in California since 2005, including $100,000 to Rebuilding California
(now known as Leadership California) the [Senate President Pro Tem, Democrat
Don] Perata-controlled committee that funded several infrastructure bond measures
on last November's ballot."
Wikipedia points out that the Examiner
newspapers -- a name that has been trademarked in more than 70 cities --
"pioneered a new business model for the newspaper industry. Designed to be
read quickly, the Examiner is presented in a compact, tabloid size
without story jumps. It focuses on local news, business, entertainment and
sports with an emphasis on content relevant to local readers. It is delivered
free to targeted homes . . . and to single-copy outlets throughout [the] market
area." (For more on Anschutz's newspaper ventures see Jack Shafer's "The Billionaire Newsboy."
In a story, titled "Conservatives in Hollywood?!"
published in the Autumn 2005 edition of City Journal, a quarterly magazine of urban affairs
published by the conservative-philanthropy supported
New York City-based think tank, the Manhattan
Institute, Brian C. Anderson wrote that "Like an old-time film mogul,
Anschutz has nailed down the distribution side," of the movie-making
"Many things happen between the time you hatch an idea
for a movie and the time that it gets to theaters -- and most of them are
bad," he told his Hillsdale listeners. "So you need to control the
type of writers you have, the type of directors you get, the type of actors you
employ, and the type of editors that work on the final product."
He successfully exercised that type of control over the 2004
Ray Charles biopic, Ray,
"toning down the film's focus on the performer's drug problems and sexual
exploits," Anderson reported. "The movie -- funded entirely by
Anschutz, after every major studio had rejected it -- garnered six Oscar
nominations, winning two, including Best Actor for Jamie Foxx, riveting in the
Although he's had some notable box-office failures, Anderson
concluded that Anschutz was "off to a gangbuster start."
Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement and a frequent
writer for Media Transparency.
He documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of
the American Right.