Profitable Christian movies are nothing new in Hollywood, but the initial success of Heaven Is for Real could change the way the industry views these films.
Features like Fireproof and Courageous earned far more than their total budgets, proving a faith-based audience is eager to see these stories. Up until recently, many Christian films featured lesser known stars and made do with microscopic budgets. They had heart and gumption, no doubt, but on a certain level they lacked the packaging of major motion pictures.
The new film, from veteran director Randall Wallace, is gorgeous, features first-rate performances and is backed by a major movie studio–Sony. Heaven Is for Real looks like it belongs in the big leagues.
And so far, audiences couldn’t agree more.
The film earned north of $3.7 million on its Wednesday opening and is estimated to bring in at least $20 million over its first 5-days in theaters. Most major films receive at least 3,000 screens, but Heaven was released on 2,400.
That box office forecast could be conservative given the audiences’ reaction to the film so far. Movie goers 35 and under gave the film an A+ CinemaScore, while the film received an overall “A” from those who saw it opening day.
Now, compare Heaven Is for Real to the recent Noah. The former didn’t draw an ounce of controversy in the weeks before its release, and its story is aimed at people with a strong sense of faith. Noah’s willingness to take creative liberties with the source material and swap environmentalism for holy themes clearly hurt its box office potential. The film roared out of the gate, and now it may not cross the $100 million mark domestically. Word of mouth matters, especially with faithful crowds.
Next month, another faith-friendly film will follow in Heaven’s footsteps. Mom’s Night Out, starring Emmy winner Patricia Heaton, Sean Astin and Trace Adkins, marries parental humor with a Christian perspective.
Such mainstream releases may be so common place soon they aren’t worthy of singular attention.