Somewhat surprisingly, box office reports for the Easter weekend show that Heaven Is for Real seems to have benefited from opening on the religious holiday. Recently, Hollywood has been stunned to see that audiences are reacting well to “Christian” films. The film Noah, Darren Aronofsky’s reworking of the biblical tale of the ark did very well at the cinema despite the filmmaker’s adjusting the focus of God’s punishment from sin to early man’s destroying the Earth.
Hercules star Kevin Sorbo with his religious movie God’s Not Dead also received a great reaction from audiences who appear to be willing to have religious dogma delivered via the world of film. The latest “Christian” film to do well in terms of “bums in seats” is the Heaven Is for Real which has, thus far, placed number three in figures of box office returns for its opening weekend.
This reaction from the cinema going public will be good news for Christian filmmakers. While the Easter weekend may have much to do with the latest message film to have such high figures, it also seems that people may just be ready to hear about the more religious elements of culture. Certainly more folks have gone to see movies dealing with a Christian theme versus a technological one.
Johnny Depp and Transcendence are not performing very well at all with a fairly low return in the U.S. Although, the film and Depp, are proving to be more popular overseas with the Chinese box office returns hitting over $11 million.
Looking at the synopsis of Heaven Is for Real it certainly seems that the film has benefitted from its Easter weekend opening. The movie appears to follow the recent trend, started by Sorbo, of taking the Christian message to the masses via celluloid instead of relying on teachings from the pulpit.
The last message film to do so well with audiences was the 1970 autobiographical film The Cross and the Switchblade. Starring Pat Boone and Erik Estrada, the film has become a sort of perennial fixture in youth clubs across America, at least according to Estrada’s biography it is.
Aronofsky’s Noah, pretty much skirted around the whole Christian philosophy, referring to God as the “Creator” and changing the reason for the flood that wiped out everyone and every creature who did not win a place on the ark to one of ecology and not God’s anger and dismay at the sin of the world. CG was used to enforce this move from religion, check out the giant rock men who were supposedly fallen angels putting the film more in the arena of fantasy.
Sorbo’s film at least focussed on what the actor believes in. Considering how close the star was to death for so long, it would be surprising if he did not believe in God. However, the 55 year-old actor’s offering is still fiction. The latest Christian film Heaven Is for Real is based on a true story of a family whose son describes visiting heaven during a near death experience. The boy’s father, portrayed by Greg Kinnear in the film, must dig deep inside himself in order to brave the trials of telling the world about his son’s trip to heaven.
It is interesting to note that just a few years ago, Heaven Is for Real would have been relegated to a “made for television” movie with a smaller budget and a lesser known actor in place of Kinnear. While it does seem that the film’s open on Easter weekend may have helped to a degree, other well received films with a Christian theme seem to indicate that audiences are ready for a religious message of hope.
By Michael Smith