In my last blog post I shared my thoughts on the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings. For better or worse Exodus is going to make a huge impact in the entertainment industry, it already has. Is it the impact that we would like to see? That is what I will examine today.
EXODUS: HOW DID WE GET HERE
I think we should start with The Passion of the Christ back in 2004. This movie, about a small segment of the Bible made big bucks at the box office. How big? Well, domestically it made over $370 Million and if you add in worldwide numbers (Which has become more and more important over the past 10 years) you have a movie that made over $600 Million. Take into consideration that only $30 Million was spent on the movie (about the cost of making an Adam Sandler Comedy). This movie would have been considered a moderate success at $60 Million. The message was heard loud and… semi-clear… well… it was heard! Movies with religious themes can make money. In the years to follow we have The Passion of the Christ to thank for The Nativity Story and even The Chronicles of Narnia. The Passion of the Christ was used as an example in the pitch to do a Narnia film. Faith was no longer something that scared the industry; they saw that there is money to be made there.
Now, what to do with that? Well, the movie studios tried to find a place in their studios for movies such as these and I think it was a valiant effort that went pretty much unnoticed by its target audience. Fox started a division called “Fox Faith” which released solid movies such as The Ultimate Gift and One Night With the King (A well done movie about the story of Esther.) However, these movies did not make the kind of profit that Fox is used to. Many of them made a profit but Fox figured they could make more money by putting their recourses elsewhere. They were probably right. It was not an anti-Christian or anti-faith move, it was a business decision, risk and reward and stuff like that. Also keep in mind that Fox did not develop any of these movies, they just distributed the films. Other studios actually produced the movies and had help from Fox getting as wide of an audience as independent films of this nature can possibly get.
Later Sony Entertainment or the branch of Sony called Provident, which was created as a Christian music Label branched out with Provident films. It is because of Provident films that we have such movies as Fireproof and Courageous. They distributed the movies created by Sherwood Baptist Church way back with their first film, Flywheel. Also, in a structure that I don’t really understand because I am not business minded, Sony also started Affirm Films which distributed When the Game Stands Tall, Soul Surfer, and the current reigning champion of Christian Films, Heaven is For Real. Sony via their Affirm Films is having much better success in the faith based market and we have the success of The Passion of the Christ to thank for its beginning.
The next chapter in the story takes place in 2013. When The History Channel aired a mini-series called The Bible. The ratings for this mini-series were through the roof. Once again the entertainment industry was reminded that people do have interest in the Bible! Because of the hype that was already being stirred up just because of the anticipation of the miniseries many studios gave the green light to Bible based films that they had in the pipeline. Some people were calling 2014 the year of the Bible and I was overjoyed.
The first up was Noah, marketing for this film was fantastic. They utilized Christian Music Festivals and concerts to excite their main target audience. The idea was, if you could excite the Christians it would spread. The promo video had the director sharing about how he loved these Characters of faith, bits of the movie were pieced together so audiences saw familiar images of the story they knew and wanted. Opening weekend was almost $44 Million, but large drop-offs showed that many Christians who saw the film did not speak favorably about it. Add this to the Christians who didn’t speak favorably about it to begin with and you have a lot of negativity effecting sales in its second weekend. When all was said and done, Noah was still profitable and in the eyes of investors The Year of the Bible was still alive!
Now, December rolls around and the release of Exodus: Gods and Kings, a movie I personally enjoyed more than Noah, gets its time to shine… and it doesn’t. Opening weekend Exodus made half of what Noah made and dropped big from there. It looks like Exodus is going to be Ridley Scott’s second worst grossing historical epic this side of Gladiator, second only to Kingdom of Heaven. With a showing like that, and removing the cut for the theaters and the money for promotion, Fox is looking at losing a large amount of money on this venture into the Bible.
EXODUS: THE FALLOUT
Now, the question is, how will the entertainment industry view this? Will they look at it and say “Well, Exodus was a dud because it was poorly put together.” Or “So, the faith based community would like to see a more faithful interpretation of their beloved stories.” I can promise you that is not what will be heard and there is already proof.
Now is the time to reflect on the past year as it comes to a close. Many sites are writing articles lake “Best movies of 2014.” One site, io9.com, wrote an article called “The Top 10 Harshest Lessons That 2014 Has Taught the Entertainment Industry.” #5 was “You can’t make a tentpole Bible movie that pulls in Christian audiences.” I strongly disagree with this statement but I am confident that this is the message that is out there right now. The Year of the Bible was not going to end in 2014. Many projects that I will highlight in a later post are in the works, some of them are too far along to pull the plug now, and that is a good thing. However, Studios are taking notice of Exodus. They are seeing that Christians made up their mind before they even saw the film. They are afraid that their films will suffer the same fate, being judged before even getting a chance.
WB had a project in the works called Pontius Pilate, it was to star Brad Pitt as Pilate. Within hours of the numbers coming in on how Exodus was doing Brad Pitt dropped out of the movie. Within hours of that news it was reported that WB had dropped the whole project. I am sure that this is not the last of the bible films to be dropped. I am sure that we will hear very soon that the King David project that Ridley Scott was producing will be dropped as well.
You might be tempted to say “So what! It is better to not have any Bible films than to have Bible films that twist scripture.” And I would like to argue a different point. Wouldn’t it be best to risk unbiblical interpretations so that we might have a chance for an accurate movie to come out and spread truth. You see, I am not afraid of lies. The Bible has stood the test of time. It has outlasted lie after lie. God is larger than mans attempts to twist him. He is greater than the father of lies. I served with a Pastor who said, almost every day, Scripture will never come back void. After Noah, The Bible app saw a spike in searches for Noah by over 300%. An unbiblical movie lead to 300% more people reading scripture then before. Yes, you can say some damage was done, but I have faith that light shines in darkness. I will go see five inaccurate movies in hopes of seeing even one more faithful and well done scriptural movie.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
Well, the Entertainment business is gun shy again, Pulling plugs on projects. For movies already too far in development to stop, I am sure money is being pulled for promotion and even for post production which will lead to some films becoming less quality because there is no money to finish the directors original vision. But all is not lost! It is not the end! We will still have more chances to redeem the Biblical movie. There is still the possibility of films that we as Christians can rally around. What do I recommend moving forward? Well, here are my recommendations:
- Don’t be jaded against “Hollywood” – Hollywood is a business, it is a machine made up of many parts. There are Bible Believing Christians working in this industry. Let us root for their opinions to become more valuable in production.
- Let’s give movies a chance. – to buy a ticket to see a movie that may or may not be biblical is not giving money to Satan. Your ticket money is like voting, the more people that vote, the more valuable your opinion becomes. They want you to like their movie so much that you will see it again in theaters then buy the DVD, giving them a chance is not guaranteeing more inaccurate movies are coming, it is letting them know you are willing to vote with your money.
- Use an inaccurate movie as a gateway to real scripture and to begin conversations about God, the Bible, faith.
- STOP SPITTING VENOM! When movies based on the Bible come out, Christians have the spotlight. When someone, Christian or Non-Christian, likes the film do not cry “evil” or “sinner” simply because they saw redemption when you did not. We are to show love. Voice why you did not like it. Look for redeeming qualities in a film that you can focus on. Remember, God is bigger than you, he doesn’t need you to defend him. Stand for truth but also stand for love.
- And finally, in the future, if you see a biblical film that you enjoy. If you want to send a message that you want more films like this. You MUST see it in theaters more than once. I know, it is expensive, and I have not always done this either because of finances but if you can at all swing it, do it! See it again! Bring friends! If you are well off enough, pay for your friend! Buy the DVD or Blu-Ray! This is how we vote! If you don’t like it, just see it the one time.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and let me know some of your thoughts in the comment section below! Grace and peace to you from our Heavenly Father!