Son of God is Box Office Success!

son of godThe Burnett-Downey film, Son of God, soared past its best opening weekend box office estimates by raking in $26.5 million in ticket sales.

Gary Susman of says that the new film, featuring the little-known Portuguese model/actor Diogo Morgado who portrays Jesus, was a hit that some say could eventually rival The Passion of the Christ, which grossed nearly $600 million at the box office ten years ago.

“Christian-themed movies are a notoriously iffy prospect,” writes Susman. “Faith-based marketing organizations insist that there’s a largely untapped audience of moviegoers out there who would gladly spend money on a film that treated their beliefs with respect, even if it came from that dreaded cesspool of sin known as Hollywood. And yet few of Hollywood’s offerings have connected with that audience in the decade since The Passion of the Christ awakened Hollywood to the potential of Christian-themed films.”

Religious-themed features don’t normally make such a splash at the box office because they are made and distributed independently. When Hollywood produces the film, however, it does so on a grander scale, with A-list actors and directors.

Even though Son of God isn’t quite on that level, Susman says, it does have a big-name producer in Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Apprentice) whose excellent work in this film could serve as a “bridge” between Hollywood’s “ham-fisted” previous attempts at tapping the Christian audience with big budget Biblical epics that actually appeal to Christian audiences.

For one thing, Burnett and his wife/actress Roma Downey, stick to Scripture and don’t play fast and loose with Biblical facts.

“In the New Testament, Jesus doesn’t display a whole lot of human foibles or self-doubt (why would He?) or other character quirks. So it is in Burnett’s version, where . . . Morgado portrays Jesus as quietly confident at all times. That may not be especially interesting, in terms of the kind of human drama that captivates film critics and mainstream moviegoers, but it seems to please biblical literalists who, after all, want to see a movie that reaffirms their faith rather than challenges it,” Susman writes.

Burnett and Downey also had the good sense to launch the movie on the same weekend that the Passion launched 10 years ago – the weekend before Ash Wednesday. It’s also four weeks ahead of the scheduled debut of Hollywood’s next big biblical movie – Noah – which gives Son of God four weeks to itself.

Son of God may enjoy a longer ride, however, because controversy is already surrounding Noah, which stars Gladiator star Russell Crowe, because of how it deviates from Scripture.

Christian groups who saw an early draft of the script for Noah weren’t happy with the non-biblical additions to the story such as the six-armed angels called Watchers who supposedly help fallen humanity by granting them all kinds of wonders from magic to science.

Noah is also depicted as being the “first environmentalist” who was very much centered on environmental issues. They also disproved of how Noah was supposedly tormented with guilt for having survived the flood while everyone else died.

“The picture’s prospects seem to be riding on whether those viewers will wait until opening weekend to find out if the film is as theologically incorrect as they’d feared, or whether there will be enough mainstream viewers eager to see Russell Crowe in a big-budget special effects epic to make up the difference,” Susman writes.

He adds: “If there’s a converse lesson here, it’s that you don’t need to please the critics. ‘Son of God’ may be a fairly perfunctory re-enactment of the New Testament’s big moments, but it delivered what its target audience wanted to see.”

Other biblical films in the works include a Cain and Abel movie being developed by Will Smith, a Pontius Pilate picture, and a David and Goliath film.

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