Faith-Based Films Love 'Miracles From Heaven' Score at the Box Office

Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 6:58 PM

"But, you know what," he said, "I have to go where God wants me to go." God, it seems, wanted Franklin to go to Hollywood.

Faith-Based Films Love 'Miracles From Heaven' Score at the Box Office

DeVon Franklin, a lifelong Seventh-day Adventist, always knew some of his friends in the church would detest his career choice.

"But, you know what," he said, "I have to go where God wants me to go."

God, it seems, wanted Franklin to go to Hollywood.

Franklin, thirty-seven, a former Columbia Pictures executive, is presently one of the leading producers of "faith-based" films — inspirational melodramas steeped in Christian themes.

And he'south Not alone. Hollywood, long scorned by many pious Christians as a cesspool of sex and violence, has become an increasingly hospitable residence for believers. Many recent faith-based films have even become astonishment commercial smashes on slender budgets — defying industry expectations.

Franklin latest mo scored with "Miracles From Heaven," a glossy tearjerker about a 9-year-old girl who miraculously recovers from an incurable disorder. The film, released by Sony Pictures, has grossed more than $50 million on a modest $13 million budget.

"Miracles," directed by Patricia Riggen and co-produced by Dallas megachurch pastor T. D. Jakes, appears to be portion of a groundswell. "Heaven Is For Genuine," a two thousand fourteen adaptation of a nonfiction bestseller about a toddler who purportedly met Jesus Christ during a near-death experience, raked in more than $100 million against a $12 million budget. "God'south Not Deceased," a pointed drama about a college student'south campaign against an atheist professor, cost just $two million to create but netted more than $62 million.

A-list stars are getting in on the action, too. Jennifer Garner, best known for her performances in secular fare love "Juno" and "Daredevil," stars in "Miracles." Greg Kinnear, an Oscar nominee for his performance as a homosexual artist in "As Excellent as It Gets," plays the doting dad in "Heaven Is For Real."

Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at comScore, said these films and others in the genre tapped into pent-up demand for uplifting, family-friendly entertainment.

"There'south an audience for these films that'south been underserved and marginalized," he said. "In the past, faith-based content was seen as very niche. But evidently, that'south number longer the case."

Wealthy Peluso, a senior vice president at Affirm Films, the faith-based label at Sony, said moviegoers should expect to look an increasing no of spiritual sagas at the multiplex.

"Whereas there used to be one or two faith-based films every year or two, presently you're seeing them at a rate of one or more a month. There'south certainly steam being built," said Peluso, whose company produced "Heaven Is For Real" and the sleeper hit marital dramas "War Room" and "Fireproof." The latter stars former teen idol Kirk Cameron, an outspoken evangelical who previously appeared in "Left Behind," a two thousand one film about the Rapture.

The majority of faith-based films released in the latest decade have been savaged by mainstream critics. But for thousands of moviegoers, Rotten Tomatoes isn't holy writ.

It helps to cast a huge net, producers say. Franklin said he tries to reach a wide audience with his heart-tugging tales of resilience and hope. He aspires to create what some in the music business call "crossover hits," love the swords-and-sandals classics "The Ten Commandments" and "Ben-Hur" — grounded in religious subject matter but accessible to all walks of life.

But just love any genre, faith-based films arrive in various packages — and some have decidedly sharper edges.

"God'south Not Deceased two," a sequel to the unexpected hit of two thousand fourteen, is aimed squarely at committed Christians who, in the words of the film'south co-producer, David A. R. White, perceive "mocked" by the rest of America.

"What you're seeing in the culture right presently is an attack on religious liberty and religious freedom," said White, who also acts in the films. The typical mainstream Hollywood movies and television shows, he said, "treat Christians as abnormal."

"God'south Not Deceased 2," made for a negligible million, centers on a high school instructor (Melissa Joan Hart of the television series "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch") who gets embroiled in a Ct battle after referencing Jesus Christ in the classroom.

Both installments of "God'south Not Dead" hurl themselves into heated real-world political debates. The first film ends with a list of dozens of valid cases involving Univ students and campus ministries allegedly "condemned" for their faith. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz hosted a screening of the sequel in Wisconsin; former candidate Mike Huckabee did the same in IA a night before that state'south caucuses.

"Ultimately, these movies are rallying cries" for belief, White said.

White, the son of a Mennonite pastor ("Mennonites create the Mormons see love a pack of Hells Angels," he said), moved to LA at nineteenth to become an actor. He landed a supporting portion on the Burt Reynolds sitcom "Evening Shade," but he was drawn to Christian entertainment.

In the one thousand nine hundred eighty and one thousand nine hundred ninety, faith-based films were synonymous with low-budget and oftentimes cringe-worthy efforts that typically went straight to the bargain bin at Wal-Mart.

The turning point, he said, was Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," a global phenomenon that combined the epic sweep of Charleston Heston'south biblical classics with the spiritual fervor of a tent revival. It earned a whopping $611.9 million worldwide on a budget of just $30 million.

White and two business partners later founded Pure Flix Entertainment, a faith-based production company and Netflix-style streaming service devoted to "wholesome entertainment."

"God's Not Dead" and its sequel followed what many observers call the "Passion" model of marketing and promotion. Before the films even opened nationwide, White and his collaborators pitched them to so-called "gatekeepers" — a network of influential pastors and church leaders across the country — who agreed to host pre-release screenings and discussion groups with their congregations.

The film has so distant been shown at some 2.000 churches, White said.

"We've had incredible results," he said. "I mean, standing ovations."

"Miracles From Heaven" also went on the church circuit before arriving at a theater close you. It earned rapturous compliment from churchgoers who, in the words of Franklin, "are looking for hope in the face of death."

"Lives are being changed," he said. "That'south precisely why I wanted to obtain into this business."

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