4 Reasons Why…
Hollywood Will Keep Making Bible Epics!
Will Hollywood’s Courtship of Faith-Based Audiences Continue?
In the film industry, especially among Christians, 2014 has become known as “The Year of the Bible,” thanks to the following notable theatrical releases that were either made by Christian studios or were made by mainstream studios and targeted toward the faith-based market:
* Son of God
* God’s Not Dead
* Heaven is for Real
* Mom’s Night Out
* The Perfect Wave
* When the Game Stands Tall
* The Identical
* The Song
* Left Behind
* Christian Mingle
* Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (releases Nov. 14)
* The upcoming Ridley Scott behemoth, Exodus: Gods and Kings (releases Dec 12)
* And perhaps the most surprising one, Unbroken, a film directed by Angelina Jolie with a screenplay penned by the acclaimed Coen Brothers. It is based on the non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand called Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, which tells the story of the late Christian inspirational speaker Louis Zamperini. (releases Dec. 25)
There were also big faith-based productions that premiered on TV, like the film Coffee Shop, a romantic comedy that starred Laura Vandervoort, legendary funny man Jon Lovitz, and Rachel Hendrix (The Perfect Wave, October Baby).
Christians often wonder if the “Year of the Bible” will continue. The answer, in my opinion, is a resounding YES. And here are four reasons why:
1. Future Faith-Based Movies Already Filling Up the “Coming Soon” Schedule
The following theatrical films and big-budget TV events have been scheduled for possible 2015 and 2016 release dates and some are already in production or completed:
* David (working title) by Ridley Scott, the same director who made Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Yes, that’s right, the renowned director (who, ironically, is an atheist) has already signed on for another Bible epic, this time telling the story of David’s post-Goliath reign in Israel. Scott has signed on to produce it, though it’s not clear if he will direct it. Release date: unclear, probably 2016, according to the link above to Variety‘s piece on it.
* Hillsong: Let Hope Rise directed by the director of Jay-Z’s Face to Black, Warner Bros. is distributing this epic rockumentary. Release date: April 3, 2015.
* Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, which will be an epic adaptation of the Anne Rice novel of the same name, which she — the famous author of the Interview with a Vampire series — wrote after her conversion to Christianity.
The movie will follow Rice’s brilliant story that used exhaustive historical research to imagine what Christ’s early years might have been like in Nazareth. Release date: Easter Eve 2016.
* David and Goliath. Ridley Scott’s not the only one taking a stab at a David story, and this one — from Timothy A. Chey, the director of Suing the Devil — will likely beat Scott to the punch with its April 24, 2015 release date.
* A.D. — Executive producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett are back with a sequel to their The Bible TV Mini-Series, this time with a Mini-Series that tells the story of Christianity immediately after Christ’s death and resurrection. Release date: April 5, 2015.
* Mary — billed as the true prequel to The Passion of the Christ because of its epic scale and five-star production value (though this is not a Mel Gibson film), this ambitious Hollywood production — starring renowned actors Ben Kingsley and Julia Ormond (she’s one of my favorites) — tells the life story of Mary from her childhood to her adult life, which is weaved, of course, into the story of Christ. Release date: April 2015 (specific date unknown).
* Nicaea tells the story of Constantine’s embrace of Christianity, although it’s not clear what angle the filmmakers will be taking and how they will market it to faith-based audiences.
In my opinion, Constantine’s decision to turn Christianity into a government organization rife with political and economic incentive was one of the great calamities of Christianity. It will be interesting to see how they present all of it.
* Tolkien and Lewis. Scheduled for a yet-to-be-determined date in 2015, the film tells the story of the famous friendship between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Although it’s not clear how much this movie will focus on the Christian faith of these authors, they are such beloved figures in Christian culture that it would be hard to imagine a film that didn’t focus on it in some significant way.
* Killing Jesus will be the next installment in National Geographic’s popular “killing” series, and it is an adaption of the book that conservative TV personality and author Bill O’Reilly wrote.
2. We Forget that We’ve Already Had Several “Years of the Bible,” and Hollywood is Just Warming Up
There have already been quite a few successful faith-based Hollywood films in past years other than The Passion of the Christ and the glut of films released in 2014. This “Year of the Bible” trend didn’t just pop up overnight. It’s been slowly building over several years.
For example, 2006, 2008, and 2013 all saw quite a few faith-bases releases that were notable either for their per-theater profits and box office rankings or their high-profile stars and publicity. Below is a list, beginning in 2005, of all notable theatrical releases that were of great interest to faith-based audiences.
You’ll see that 2005 – 2009 is inconsistent. The number of releases fluctuate sporadically in those years.
But then, beginning in 2010, the number of notable faith-based theatrical releases becomes more consistent — four per year. Something is building. There’s momentum. And then 2013 sees a big spike — eight significant releases — all leading up to 2014, the big “Year of the Bible.” The graphic below also shows the strong box office sales that faith-based movies have been bringing in:
- The Gospel
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
- End of the Spear
- The Visitation
- One Night with the King
- Facing the Giants
- The Nativity Story
- The Last Sin Eater
- Amazing Grace
- Evan Almighty
- The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie
- Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
- Henry Poole Is Here
- The Blind Side
- Not Easily Broken
- Secret of Kells
- The Book of Eli
- Letters to God
- The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
- Suing the Devil
- Soul Surfer
- October Baby
- Joyful Noise
- Blue Like Jazz
- Monumental: In Search of America’s National Treasure
- Woman Thou Art Loosed
- The Bible TV Mini-Series
- Home Run
- Alone Yet Not Alone (became notable especially after its Oscar nomination controversy)
- I’m in Love with a Church Girl
- The Christmas Candle
- Believe Me
- Grace Unplugged
Of course, none of these years compare to 2014, “The Year of the Bible,” which saw 14 major theatrical releases that were of great interest to the faith-based audience.
The releases in 2014 have also gotten far more publicity than any previous years of faith-based films.
3. Bible Heroes are Less Expensive than Marvel Superheroes
In 2012, The Wall Street Journal published a piece that honed in on a core reason for Hollywood’s recent love affair with Bible stories: no licensing fees.
These days, everything that Hollywood green lights is either a comic book superhero adaptation or, well, everything else. The Marvel blockbusters seem to be the only surefire bets for profit.
But there’s one problem: comic book adaptations are very expensive because of all the licensing fees required. All of the authors are alive and/or their work is certainly not in the public domain. Not so with the Bible. There are no licensing fees, and yet the Good Book provides an abundance of its own “superheros” known and loved by a large audience.
In other words, the Bible is the cheaper alternative to the current superhero comic book craze in Hollywood. This bodes well for the future of faith-based films, especially Bible epics.
4. The Numbers Are Solid
As the lovely info-graphic in this article shows, there’s big money in faith-based films; and, well, Hollywood has, shall we say, a strong appreciation for money.
It still amazes me that The Passion of the Christ is #16 in the list of top-grossing movies of all time.
Another surprising statistic from below: 77% of Americans polled in a national survey felt that “most entertainment did not meet their expectations or reinforce values important to them.”
Ultimately, when you look at these four points, it’s clear that the “Year of the Bible” will be continuing for many more years to come.
[The graphic in this article was created by onlinechristiancolleges.com.]