Going to a Good Cause: Disneynature's 'Bears' and Other Charitable Movies

Last year the North American box office pulled in a staggering $10.9 billion, a number that feels even more staggering when you think of what else could be done with $10.9 billion. Of course, not every movie translates to big studio head salaries or outrageous movie star paychecks. Some movies, in addition to entertaining the masses, give back too. Case in point, Disneynature's latest effort, Bears . The fascinating documentary feature -- which follows a year in the life of a family of grizzly bears in Alaska -- will not only entertain, inspire, and educate, but it will help the very subject of their movie. If you see Disneynature's Bears during its opening week (April 18-24) a donation will be made to the National Park Foundation.

This isn't the first time that Disneynature (which releases its nature-friendly films around Earth Day) has been part of an Earth-conscious charitable partnership. Take for instance 2012's hit feature Chimpanzee. When the film opened, the studio offered to donate a portion of opening weekend profits to the Jane Goodall Institute. But after a big opening weekend ($10.6 million), Disney extended the donations to two weeks of box office returns. (In its second week, Chimpanzee pulled in a total of $18.9 million.)

Disneynature also made charitable donations from the money made by 2011's African Cats (The African Wildlife Foundation) and 2010's Oceans (The Nature Conservancy). The combined efforts of all four of the studio's films (including 2007's Earth) has resulted in "Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, [which] has planted three million trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest, established 40,000 acres of marine protected area in The Bahamas, protected 65,000 acres of savanna in Kenya, protected nearly 130,000 acres of wild chimpanzee habitat, educated 60,000 school children about chimpanzee conservation and cared for chimpanzees."

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But Disneynature films aren't the only ones to give back to the greater good. In the wake of Paul Walker's tragic passing, a percentage of the proceeds from the Blu-ray and DVD release of Fast & Furious 6 would go to the actor's non-profit foundation Reach Out WorldWide, "a network of professionals with first responder skill-sets who augment local expertise when natural disasters strike in order to accelerate relief efforts." Those behind one of Walker's final films, the Hurricane Katrina drama Hours , also donated portions of the film's box office intake and soundtrack sales to Reach Out WorldWide.

In honor of the autobiographical war film Lone Survivor, the Lone Survivor Fund distributed all donations made on their website to the charities Got Your 6 ("A collective impact campaign designed to help bridge the military-civilian divide"), the Navy SEAL Foundation ("Established to support U.S. Navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman, Naval Special Warfare support personnel, and their families"), and the Lone Survivor Foundation ("Restores, empowers, and renews hope for our wounded service members and their families through health, wellness, and therapeutic support.")

Here's to hoping more studios and filmmakers take this approach when it comes to seeing the big picture beyond the big screen.

Image: Disney nature