The Billion-Dollar Christian Movie
By David Outten, Production Editor
Paramount Pictures invested heavily in a remake of BEN-HUR with dreams of attracting large Christian audiences like the ones that attended the original starring Charlton Heston. The resulting huge loss could frighten major studios considering reaching out to Christian audiences. Earlier this year Focus Features didn’t do well with THE YOUNG MESSIAH.
This doesn’t mean there’s no Christian audience to serve. It simply means BEN HUR and THE YOUNG MESSIAH were not what that audience wanted to pay to see. JOHN CARTER and THE LONE RANGER were not what audiences wanted to pay to see either, but no one concludes that the adventure market is dead. The major studios will continue to pour billions into making adventure movies they hope audiences will like.
The question that needs to be asked is, “What do Christian audiences want? What could become the billion dollar Christian movie?”
Let’s begin with the basics. Christian moviegoers are moviegoers. They want terrific, memorable stories. They want heroes to be heroic and to honor God in doing so. They want adventure, humor and all the “entertainment value” anyone else does.
Consider THE BLIND SIDE. It was a massive surprise hit because it featured Sandra Bullock as a compassionate, but bold, Southern Christian woman. The movie had both humor and heart. It was profoundly emotional. It had classic story structure and excellent production values – without requiring a $200 million budget.
Whether you’re a major studio or an independent filmmaker, there’s a massive audience that wants Christian heroes put to the test in a great story with ample conflict.
Someone is going to make the billion dollar Christian movie with this kind of story. It will include characters with international appeal. THE BLIND SIDE was very much an American story with its emphasis on American football. Look for the billion dollar Christian movie to be purposely aimed at international audiences.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies made billions with a Christian allegory. The coming billion dollar Christian movie will be more specific in its hero’s Christian commitment, however.
There’s ample opportunity to make healthy profits on smaller projects, but entertainment value remains key. It’s not enough to offer Christian audiences more movies they “need” to see – like some kind of medicine. Christian audiences must be offered movies they “want” to see.
Creativity is important. Much of what’s coming out of Hollywood is remakes, reboots and sequels. There’s tremendous opportunity for those with the courage to offer something new, but that comes with risk. Some new things bomb. THE YOUNG
MESSIAH was an excellent movie, but it didn’t find an audience. On the other hand, many of the biggest hits in Hollywood history are projects rejected by others before finally getting made.
20th Century Fox once thought STAR WARS was going to be a loser B-movie. It revolutionized the industry. We’re still feeling its impact today.
The right Christian movie could revolutionize the industry. Let some movie costing $20 million make $2 billion worldwide and everyone will notice. It would be seen as a financial and artistic model.
Making money is not the real bottom line in filmmaking, moral impact is, but profit is vital if you hope to continue making movies. Paramount was once saved with the earnings from THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. Fox was saved by THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Movieguide® wants Paramount, and every other studio, to make huge profits on movies with strong Christian content.
If you are making a movie to appeal to Christian audiences, we urge you to let Movieguide® help you. We have 30 years of research and experience. We can help you fix things that will turn off Christian audiences and find things that will delight them. We offer filmmaking seminars on HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL). We also consult frequently with filmmakers.
We stand prepared to help studios, large and small, reach the Christian audience. We’re looking forward to the billion dollar Christian movie.
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