“Hollywood just wont give faith based films a chance.” We’ve all heard it, and it’s a tired refrain. It’s also not true.
Arguably, the real problem is that many of them just aren’t very good. It’s a lot easier for some filmmakers to complain the industry wont give them a shot, than admit they just aren’t as talented as established veterans who’ve proven themselves time and time again. (Or, to admit quality film-making is difficult with a sub $10 million budget.) Blackballing is also a good angle for manipulating some free press.
Do faith based films have any chance in a notoriously exclusionary industry? Absolutely. Son of God and God’s Not Dead are both playing as you read this, having earned $56 and $12 million, respectively. Fireproof made over $33 million, on a budget of just half a million dollars.
So, why do so many faith based films do so poorly? Perhaps they often just aren’t very good. Fireproof scored just 40% on Rottentomatoes.com, and did pretty well. Still, Left Behind scored just 16%, while I’m In Love With A Church Girl fared even worse, earning just 6% of critics approval. Both imploded in theaters.
Here’s 10 reasons why I’m predicting a great turnout for Noah this weekend:
1, 2, and 3) Russell Crowe. Emma Watson. Darren Aronofsky.
The three names above form a Holy Triumvirate for film-making. Russell Crowe appeals to adults, and evokes an impression of action and gravitas. He’s a big movie star, and people take notice of what he does. Emma Waston. Hermione. Enough said, right? She appeals to the under 25 crowd, and like Crowe, both genders. With all four quadrants covered, all that remains is selling the material. Aronofsky, the director that brought us Black Swan, is well known among movie lovers for bringing deep, complex storytelling to the cinema. Immediately, one knows this wont be a run of the mill project.
4) Budget: At $125 million, this isn’t a cheap film. In fact, it’s more than twice the budget of any other film Paramount has released so far this year. (Lead by Anchorman 2 and Jack Ryan at $50 and $60 million, respectively.)
5) Cinema’s faith based renaissance. (See above), 2 other films are doing well in theaters, right now.
6) Marketing: Religious groups rightly, often worry about the abuse of their most sacred stories, characters, and values, by anyone looking to make a buck. Paramount has gone out of their way to include a disclaimer in advertising and during the beginning of the film, which has been approved by numerous religious leaders Paramount has been consulting with for the past several months. This seal of approval could mean everything to box office success.
7) Opening on 3,500 screens: This is a blockbuster level market presence. Obviously, Hollywood has faith in this project. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opened on 3,900 last December.
8) Trending: Noah already has 54,000 votes from users on Rottentomatoes.com, and rose 65% in trending according to IMDB’s MovieMeter today.
9) A religious figure to 3 major religions: It’s well known that Noah’s story is common to both Judaism and Christianity, but like Jesus and Moses, Noah is also considered a Prophet to Muslims. It is contrary to Sharia law to depict not just Mohammed, but also his 25 named prophets. Still, many Muslims may hold less severe views, particularly among Muslim populations living in more secular regions. Like many Christians, these groups may have particular interest in the film. Though not releasing in many Muslim nations, Noah already has a release set for Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey, Cyprus, Russia (population is ~12% Muslim), India (14%), Lebanon, and the UAE.
10) Thursday night sneaks. Noah took in over $1.6 million, which is similar to what Gravity did last year. Like Gravity, Noah has broad appeal, including to groups that traditionally show up after the initial hype recedes. So, many potential viewers should still be sailing into theaters for at least the next 40 days and 40 nights.
BONUS ROUND: #11) Finally, consider The Passion of the Christ. Remember that one? It was made by Mel Gibson, in 2004. Having grossed over $600 million worldwide, and opening on a similar 3,400 screens, it remains the highest grossing R-rated film of all time, and highest grossing winter opener of all time. And all of that on a on a measly budget of just $30 million dollars.
Ray Subers at BoxOfficeMojo estimates Noah should earn around $36 million this weekend. It has all the ingredients to do that, and more. Hollywood will give these films a chance, and everyone will go and see them – if they’re any good.
Materials courtesy Paramount Pictures. Copyright 2014.