The Hollywood and independent marketing machines are in full gear. With the recent picture Son of God and other Christian/Family films being released, two new titles pit the Hollywood system against the independents.
The Noah marketing team immediately went after controversy to create a large publicity swell by promoting that an atheist was directing the biblical account of Noah. Attracting the media to Russell Crowe’s meeting with the Pope to smooth things over followed.
Behind the scenes, Paramount gathered numerous pastors and ministers together to gain their buy-in to support the film. However, the genre of the film is not categorized as Christian, Religious, or Family, but is instead categorized as Controversial, Disaster, and IMAX – As they are not going after the evangelical market, but want them to show up.
The God’s Not Dead team is taking the opposite approach with a grassroots movement to evangelicals. The film opened with $8.6MM at the box office placing it in the top five for weekend revenue with only 780 theaters. A few publications took note of the high per screen success, but most secular media barely made mention of it.
About 300 more screens will be added to the film’s release and the team hopes that the controversial comments that Kevin Sorbo made about Bill Maher will help the grassroots movement grow. The opportunity is there, as The Hollywood Reporter stated that the film was “propaganda,” which Pure Flix can use to generate more publicity.
Freedom of Speech is one of the key elements that marketing teams use to drive more controversy, which equates to immediate box office ticket sales. Numerous articles on Noah covered the atheist’s right to make a biblical picture and God’s Not Dead will most likely strike out against key media sources that are filtering out their success.
The biggest difference between the two teams is that the Hollywood system has decades of experience generating headlines and the evangelicals have decades of practice avoiding headlines.
In one of Sorbo’s interviews he mentioned that Maher’s jokes about God were sad, which is a passive comment. To stir controversy that promotes movies, Sorbo would have to make proactive comments that attack Maher’s words or actions, not his character. It would be the verbal version of Jesus turning over the tables of the merchants at the temple because they didn’t belong there.
The next three weeks shall determine the outcome of both films and will give lead in to Randall Wallace’s (Braveheart, The Man in the Iron Mask) Heaven is for Real, which will be marketed to a mixed audience between the two pictures.