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Do movies at theaters influence the audience, just entertain or both?
Both, depending on the film and the audience. Some films appear to be just entertainment and not much else, but they might be influential to some; and viceversa. I might be inspired and influenced by a film that others might find just entertaining, or maybe even bad. Film is an art, and like all art forms, it is bound to be perceived in different ways by different people.
Serious movies do influence as well as entertain audiences. Dramatic movies deal with ages old and contemporary moral issues. For example, "Kramer v. Kramer" with Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman deals with divorce and child custody; "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," with Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier deals with racial discrimination; "Sophie's Choice" with Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline deals with the Holocaust; and "The Savages" with Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman tells the moving story of a brother and sister caring for their father who has Alzheimer's. All of these kinds of movies deal with moral issues, and I believe they do influence the audiences, some of them anyway. Other movies depicting gratuitous violence and brutality tend to be a negative influence on audiences.
What a great question! I believe it is definitely both. Of course, movies are designed to entertain the audience. After all, the producers, directors, etc. all are seeking to generate a lot of money from the film, so of course they want it to be entertaining so people will first, go to see the movie, and second, recommend it to friends. But there is a darker side to the movie industry, in my opinion, and that comes into play when you look at the concept of influencing the audience.
Many movies coming out of Hollywood these days are designed to create or promote a particular 'world view'. Movies today are filled with underlying messages designed to change opinions on various topics. Hollywood does a great job of disguising this agenda by wrapping it into the story and making it appear acceptable and, indeed, normal.
If you love watching movies (and I do!), the best thing you can do is pay attention to the underlying agenda that may be "pushed" in the movie you are viewing, so you won't allow yourself to be unduly influenced.
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