Now that Christians Rule Hollywood, Maybe God Will Get a Star on the Walk of Fame

Keli Goff
This Holy Week sees an unprecedented four faith-based films bringing in the box office bucks. Next up? God gets a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.
When last weekend’s box office numbers were revealed one superstar came out on top. It wasn’t Denzel Washington, Robert Downey, Jr. or any of the other usual names from Hollywood’s A-list. In fact, this A-lister did not even appear in any film credits at all, but may have just become Hollywood’s hottest commodity. The new power player: God, or more specifically God and his many Christian followers. For the first time, two Christian themed films appeared in two of the top box office slots.Russell Crowe’s Noahinspired by the Bible story, was number one raking in a hefty $44 million. Its box office dominance inspired a flood (no pun intended) of pun-ny headlines, among them “Noah Floats, Sabotage Drowns” from Forbes. But what’s more shocking to Hollywood insiders is the appearance of Gods Not Dead on the box office power list. The fifth most popular film in America for the second week in a row tells the story of a Christian college student locked in a battle of wills against a professor who is an atheist. Despite a tiny budget and its lack of marquee stars (TV actors Kevin Sorbo and Dean Cain appear) the film has pulled in more than $20 million at the box office so far.

But the two movies are not the only ones establishing Christian themed films, and the people who see them, as a major Hollywood force to be reckoned with. Last month, Son of God surpassed box office expectations. Heaven is for Real, a film based on the bestselling book, will soon be released, and expectations are high.

“It feels like we’re in a special moment that has never happened before in Hollywood where you have this many faith-based movies being released by not just independent filmmakers but now the big studios,” said Paul Lauer, founder and CEO of Motive Entertainment, the leading film marketing firm for reaching Christian audiences. “This Holy Week there will be four major feature films in theaters at the same time and that’s unprecedented.”

Lauer launched his firm a little over a decade ago with a plan to focus on targeting underserved religious audiences, unchartered territory at the time. Months after opening he was introduced to Mel Gibson who told him about a faith-inspired film he wanted to release. That film became the mega-hit Passion of the Christ. Motive Entertainment led the groundbreaking grassroots marketing campaign targeting Christians through churches and other non-traditional marketing venues that helped make Passion of the Christ, an independent film, one of the most successful films of all time.

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But even after its success, films about faith did not become ubiquitous the way many genres do after one film succeeds. According to Scott A. Shuford, founder of FrontGate Media, a firm specializing in reaching Christian audiences online, Hollywood was slow to recognize the power and scope of Christian consumers. “I think at first Hollywood business people got confused between a religion and a market.” Shuford, whose firm was one of those involved in the marketing ofNoah, went on to explain that while Hollywood has been serving African Americans and Latinos as distinct markets with distinct interests, they struggled to see Christians the same way and as a result didn’t invest resources in that community. As such, “The Passion of the Christ was initially treated as a fluke.”

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Source: The Daily Beast | Keli Goff

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