The Death Of “Christian Movies”

Note: For the purpose of this post, the term “Christian movie” = A movie made for Christians.

Domestic box office gross for Christian movies, according to http://www.boxofficemojo.com (I’ve read that in order for a movie to be considered profitable, it has to gross more than twice its budget):

The Nativity Story (2006): $37 million (it had a budget of $35 million).
Bella (2007): $8 million (it had a budget of $3.3 million).
Letters to God (2010): $2.8 million (it had a budget of $3 million).
Soul Surfer (2011): $43 million (it had a budget of $18 million).
October Baby
(2012): $5.3 million.
Grace Unplugged
(2013): $2.5 million.
Son of God (2014): $59 million.
Heaven is for Real (2014): $91 million (it had a budget of $12 million).

The Identical (2014): $2.8 million.
When the Game Stands Tall (2014): $30 million (it had a budget of $15 million).
The Song (2014): $1 million.
Left Behind (2014): $14 million (it had a budget of $16 million).
Do You Believe? (2015): $12 million. This was Pure Flix’s follow-up to God’s Not Dead.
Faith of Our Fathers (2015): $1 million.
Captive (2015): $2.5 million.
Woodlawn (2015): $14 million (it had a budget of $25 million).
Risen (2016): $32 million (it had a budget of $20 million).
The Young Messiah (2016): $3.9 million.
Facing the Giants (2006): $10 million (it had a budget of $100,000).
Fireproof (2008): $33 million (it had a budget of $500,000).
Courageous (2011): $34 million (it had a budget of $2 million).
War Room (2015): $67 million (it had  a budget of $3 million).
God’s Not Dead (2014): $60 million.

There are Christian movies I’ve missed.

My point is: Christians, for the most part, like:

1) Brand recognition (the Kendrick Brothers).
2) Movies that tell them what they want to hear and don’t challenge them (Son of GodGod’s Not Dead).
3) Movies, based on a true story, with a faith element (Soul Surfer, Heaven is for Real).

More than once in Christian circles I’ve read something like this:

“____ proves that Christians want clean, family-friendly, God-honoring movies!”

And yet when more “clean,” “family-friendly,” and “God-honoring” movies are made, barely anyone shows up. For example: This was heard in theaters showing Do You Believe?:

That is how Christian movies are “dying”: Christians have proven time and time again that they don’t really want “clean,” “family-friendly,” and “God-honoring” movies. Christians want movies that tell them they’re on the winning team (God’s Not Dead, Facing the Giants) and tell them what they already believe to be true and don’t challenge them (War Room, Son of God).

God’s Not Dead, and the movies made by the Kendrick Brothers, aren’t movies. They are feature-length sermons.

They are movies in the sense that they’re over 80 minutes long, they exist on pieces of film, and they have a plot with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

But they are not movies in the sense that, to me, matters the most: The characters.

For example: Martin, from God’s Not Dead.

Movie35

Martin is not a character. He’s a prop. A cardboard cutout with the words “Insert character here” scribbled on it in Sharpie.

Movie36

Martin is a foreign exchange student from China who is inspired to become a Christian after listening to a series of debates in his philosophy class, and who calls his dad to tell him that he has converted to Christianity. That’s Martin’s whole character.

Martin is in God’s Not Dead for no other reason than to further the movie’s message. What’s the message? God is not dead.

In contrast, look at “Madame” from Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989).

Kiki15

I don’t even know this woman’s name, and yet I could tell you more about her than I could about Martin.

Madame makes up for her mistakes (she insists on paying Kiki, the delivery girl, even though there is no delivery to make):

Kiki20

Madame likes to bake (her specialty is herring and pumpkin pot pie):

Kiki18

Madame is willing to take others’ advice and accept their help:

Kiki7

Madame likes drinking tea:

Kiki17

Madame thinks of others:

Kiki19

I would rather spend a day with Madame than a day with Martin or anyone else from God’s Not Dead or anyone from all the Kendrick Brother’s movies.

I hope that God’s Not Dead 2 — in theaters on April 1st — doesn’t gross as much as God’s Not Dead.

I hope the Kendrick Brother’s movies get better. But, since Fireproof and War Room are essentially the same movie — a married couple turn their lives around after one of the spouses starts praying — I don’t have much hope. After all: Why change when change means you might make less money?

The world doesn’t need more “Christian movies.”

The world needs more movies that portray goodness, truth, and beauty. (Philippians 4:8)

The world needs less of this:

Movie10

And more of this:

Arrietty10

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