Hollywood plays to the faithful and finds box-office hits with God

By Reuters Staff
April 21, 2014

(Cast member Emma Watson arrives for the UK premiere of “Noah”, Leicester Square, London, March 31, 2014. REUTERS/Paul Hacket)

Hollywood has embraced God in a big – and lucrative – way.

The movie “Heaven is for Real,” which depicts the story of a young boy who claims to have visited heaven during a near death experience, is the fourth faith-based film this year to stir movie-going audiences with impressive box office numbers.

Made for $12 million, the film, which stars Greg Kinnear, collected $21.5 million over the Easter weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, finishing third at the box office behind bigger budget films “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” from Walt Disney and “Rio 2″ from Fox.

Two other Christian-based films also cracked the top 10. “Noah,” from Viacom’s Paramount Pictures, stars Russell Crowe as the biblical figure and was ninth. It has generated more than $93 million at domestic theaters since opening in March, according to the site Box Office Mojo.

“God’s Not Dead,” about a religious freshman college student who debates his professor over the existence of God, was tenth and has totaled $48 million over five weeks, despite playing in only about half the numbers of theaters of Hollywood’s larger films.

Fox’s “Son of God,” an adaptation of producer Mark Burnett’s 10-hour TV mini series “The Bible,” generated more than $59 million in domestic ticket sales after opening earlier this year.

“This audience has long felt left out by Hollywood and it certainly looks like this isn’t the case anymore,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior market analyst of box office tracking firm Rentrak, in an email. “The numbers will encourage studios to make more of these types of films.”

Studios have been searching for more faith-based films since Mel Gibson’s 2004 “The Passion of the Christ,” which tallied $611.9 million in worldwide ticket sales and was made on a modest $30 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo.

Read the full story by Ronald Grover and Chris Michaud here.

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