When my family went to the movies this holiday season, we were faced with several choices. Among them was a film named Exodus, a retelling of the Biblical exodus from Egypt of the Israelites under the leadership of Moses. I admit, I was interested in it. But is that the one we went to see? Nope. Instead, we laid down our money to see the final Hobbit movie.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who, given that choice, stood in line for the Hobbit movie.
According to IMDb, Exodus, with an estimated budget of $140 million, raked in $24.5 million on opening weekend and a little over $53 million as of the 26th. It will be doing good to surpass the box office of “God is Not Dead” earlier this year which ended up just over $60 million. That equates to a big fail given its budget.
Scott Mendelson had the following to say about Exodus:
But there is something weirdly fitting of one of the worst films of the year being one of the year’s biggest flops, especially in a year basically lacking in mega-budget disasters on this scale.
Not having seen it, I can’t confirm his opinion of the film. That said, despite 2014 being a banner year for “faith-based” films, Exodus is an bookend on a series of less-than-successful Christian-themed movies. So much so that Christian-themed films as a group garnered a spot in io9’s “Top 10 Harshest Lessons That 2014 Has Taught The Entertainment Industry” article:
5. You can’t make a tentpole Bible movie that pulls in Christian audiences
This was the year of the religious epic, and it seemed as though the lucrative Christian audience mostly stayed away. Aronofsky’s Noah did okay, not quite making back its production costs in the U.S. but probably breaking even in worldwide receipts. But the Left Behind remake starring Nic Cage seems to have gotten (sorry) left behind. And Ridley Scott’s Exodus has joined his Robin Hood in the ranks of lavish costumed dramas that crashed and burned, at least domestically.
This doesn’t even consider the more overtly Christian movies like God is Not Dead.
Why did the “lucrative Christian audience” stay home for these movies?
It probably varied with the movie. I know there was a lot of negative press about Noah because it didn’t faithfully follow the Biblical account, and that probably hurt its Christian audience sales. I don’t know about Left Behind but I think while the books had a market, it wasn’t on Christian’s list to see the movie version. Aside from some lackluster content in Exodus, I think its biggest problem was going up against the Hobbit.
Interestingly enough, the one movie not specifically labeled a Christian movie, but many Christians do think of it as one since its author is a Christian, is The Hobbit by Tolkien. If you include that one, then one Christian movie did end up a blockbuster in 2014.
But it isn’t considered a Christian movie because there is no overt Biblical story being told, nobody converting to Christ, or quoting Bible verses. Just a world grounded in Christian values and a gripping story.
In the end, it may spell the end for more epic Christian movies in 2015.
With the dismal showings this year, people will be less willing to plunk down money to make them. This Hobbit movie is the last of Tolkien’s stories to put to film (but you never know when Hollywood will decide it’s time to do a remake of LOTR). It seems the Narnia films ran out of steam, but could be revived. The Silver Chair I think would innately make a good movie without major modifications.
It may mean most of what we have to look forward to is more like God is Not Dead. But major Hollywood productions of Christian-themed movies may indeed be dead. At least for the time being.
Where do you think the direction of Christian-themed movies will go for 2015?