SALT LAKE CITY â€” This year has seen an unusually high number of religious-themed wide releases coming from Hollywood. So far in 2014 studios have released â€śSon of God,â€ť â€śNoahâ€ť and â€śGodâ€™s Not Dead.â€ť This week weâ€™ll get one more in the form of â€śHeaven is for Real.â€ť
The number of religious-based films seems uncharacteristically high, but the films are finding an audience and making a solid financial return.
â€śGodâ€™s Not Deadâ€ť was made on a $2 million budget and has grossed more than $40 million domestically at the box office.
The marketing for the film was almost non-existent; it opened in only 780 locations across the nation. Thanks to its unpredicted success, however, itâ€™s now in over 1,800 theaters nationwide. The film relied on direct marketing to churches and religious groups, which resulted in heavy group pre-sales. The film grossed $9 million opening weekend and almost $13 million the first week.
â€śSon of God,â€ť which was a re-cut from Historyâ€™s miniseries â€śThe Bible," opened to more than $25 million.
Christian politician and former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum has seen the upward trend in religion-based films and plans to keep it moving.
Santorum is the head of EchoLight Studios, a faith-and-family-based production company. He said his studio plans on releasing four films a year, which will play in churches, not theaters.
â€śEchoLight wants to empower the church to bring in people to see films,â€ť EchoLight Studios spokeswoman Kristin Cole told Deadline. â€śAt the same time, it allows them to keep more of the profits not having to distribute it through theaters.â€ť
Even major Hollywood studios are cashing in on the trend.2 comments on this story
Paramountâ€™s â€śNoahâ€ť carried its fair share of controversy, but the movie based on the story from Genesis cost the studio $125 million and has made nearly $250 million worldwide.
Twentieth Century Fox has plans to release the film â€śExodus: Gods and Kingsâ€ť this December. The big-budget biblical film stars Christian Bale and Aaron Paul and is directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ridley Scott.
The faith-based film trend will likely continue as long as the films keep making money. It appears, for the time being, that these films have found a place in Hollywood.
Curtis Linnell is a communications graduate from Brigham Young University and writes for ok.com