Current Films by Act One Graduates Reveal Strange Dichotomy in Box Office Mojo’s ‘Christian Movie’ Category

Part of ongoing series: The Future of Faith in Film and Television

Clare Sera’s BLENDED and Andrea Nasfell’s MOM’S NIGHT OUT highlight the strange dichotomy between ‘Christian’ movies and the rest of Hollywood. The sense of legitimacy provided by Box Office Mojo’s new “Christian Movie” genre is nice, but is a separate category really a good thing for faith-based filmmaking?

by Gary David Stratton, PhD • Senior Editor

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Box Office Mojo, Hollywood’s leading site for reporting movie attendance, has started posting results for ‘Christian’ movies “produced by Christians that promote or embody their religion” from 1980 to present.  The legitimacy and media attention are nice, but is this distinction a good thing for faith-based filmmaking?  While it’s encouraging to see Hollywood recognizing the economic viability of ‘Christian’ films, it is disheartening to see ‘Christian’ filmmaking reduced only to, uh, “less than subtle” explorations of faith.

While being labeled as a ‘Christian’ film might be a kiss of death for many films seeking a broader audience, a number of excellent faith-exploring films didn’t make Box Office Mojo’s list for any obvious reason. For instance, The Blind Side  ($255M) would be #3,  Madea Goes to Jail ($90M) #5, and The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($75M) #6, IF they had been included. In fact, Tyler Perry’s films would have dominated the top twenty-five if BOM had included them.  So why didn’t they?

What’s more, subtle and artistic faith explorations–such as the film’s of Alfonso Cuarón, Brit Marling, and the aforementioned Scott Derrickson–certainly aren’t on the BOM list (perhaps rightfully so), yet probably point the way for future faith-based filmmakers seeking true cultural impact more than a quick-buck from the faith community. I suspect that the great Christian filmmakers of Hollywood’s glory days–Frank CapraCecil B. DeMille, etc.–would roll over in their graves at the thought of a separate genre for ‘Christian’ films. Their films dominated THE Box Office (and Academy Awards) because they were truly outstanding works of art with broad popular appeal. (See, Shouldn’t a Great Film Impact DEEP Culture?)

A Tale of Two Writers

moms_night_out_xlgTwo current films by graduate’s of the Act One screenwriting program highlight this strange dichotomy for the modern Christian screenwriter.  Andrea Gyertson Nasfell‘s hilarious MOM’S NIGHT OUT is included on Box Office Mojo’s ‘Christian’ movie list (currently #18 at $10M and rising), mostly because of the public faith pronouncements of some the film’s producers and stars. Clare Sera‘s equally hilarious BLENDED (currently at $36M and climbing) is NOT included on Box Office Mojo’s list, presumably because it is NOT produced by or starring any publicly vocal Christians.

Both Andrea and Clare are wonderful Christians whose faith deeply informs their writing. (They’ve been part of the same writing group since they sat beside each other in Act One’s inaugural cohort.) Both films portray a strong Judeo-Christian moral promise. Because of their premise, both movies were largely panned by Hollywood critics and adored by the viewing public. (BLENDED received a coveted A- Cinema Score and MOM’S NIGHT OUT an 88% like score on Rotten Tomatoes.)  Both are outstanding comedies. My somewhat cynical teenage daughter–not the target audience for either film–loved them both and kept breaking out in spontaneous laughter for days afterward as lines from each movie kept coming to mind.

What’s the diff?

So why does Box Office Mojo consider one a ‘Christian’ film while the other is not? The reasons may be obvious to their editors. But anyone who reads Two Handed Warriors regularly or, better yet, understands what Act One is attempting to do in training Christians to enter mainstream media knows that it is a false and perhaps even dangerous distinction. We need writers like Clare Sera and Andre Nasfell to write outstanding films that flow from their own authentic faith, no matter which side of BOM’s dichotomy they fall upon. And we need Christian moviegoers who choose movies to view based not upon what Box Office Mojo or any other genre assigning agency thinks is ‘Christian,’ but upon which films reflect moral premises and artistry consistent with the beauty and love of God.

So… should we care that Box Office Mojo now has a ‘Christian’ movie genre?  Should we celebrate? Should we weep?  I’m not sure. But we all should make sure to view BLENDED and MOM’S NIGHT OUT while they are still in the theater.

Read the complete Box Office Mojo list for yourself and let us know what you think.

 

See also:

Support Your Screenwriters of Faith: Go See POMPEII Tonight

The Future of Faith-Based Filmmaking

The Future of Faith in Film and Television

Thirty Favorite Christmas Movies for 2013

 

Rank Title (click to view) Studio Lifetime Gross /Theaters Opening /Theaters Date
1 The Passion of the Christ NM $370,782,930 3,408 $83,848,082 3,043 2/25/04
2 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe BV $291,710,957 3,853 $65,556,312 3,616 12/9/05
3 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian BV $141,621,490 3,929 $55,034,805 3,929 5/16/08
4 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Fox $104,386,950 3,555 $24,005,069 3,555 12/10/10
5* Heaven is for Real TriS $88,412,645 3,048 $22,522,221 2,417 4/16/14
6* God’s Not Dead Free $59,872,680 1,860 $9,217,013 780 3/21/14
7 Son of God Fox $59,700,064 3,271 $25,601,865 3,260 2/28/14
8 Soul Surfer TriS $43,853,424 2,240 $10,601,862 2,214 4/8/11
9 The Nativity Story NL $37,629,831 3,083 $7,849,304 3,083 12/1/06
10 Courageous TriS $34,522,221 1,214 $9,112,839 1,161 9/30/11
11 Fireproof Gold. $33,456,317 905 $6,836,036 839 9/26/08
12 Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie Art. $25,581,229 1,625 $6,201,345 940 10/4/02
13 One Night with the King 8X $13,395,961 909 $4,120,497 909 10/13/06
14 The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything Uni. $12,981,269 1,340 $4,251,320 1,337 1/11/08
15 The Omega Code Prov. $12,614,346 450 $2,354,362 304 10/15/99
16 End of the Spear RM $11,967,000 1,163 $4,281,388 1,163 1/20/06
17 Facing the Giants IDP $10,178,331 441 $1,343,537 441 9/29/06
18* Moms’ Night Out TriS $9,758,646 1,046 $4,311,083 1,044 5/9/14
19 Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed RM $7,720,487 1,052 $2,970,848 1,052 4/18/08
20 Megiddo: The Omega Code II 8X $6,047,691 353 $1,573,454 314 9/21/01

* Currently in theaters.

See entire Box Office Mojo list