Do Christian audiences not want OT movies?

Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily has some interesting comments on the box-office prospects for Evan Almighty, which opens this Friday. Given that this is rumoured to be the most expensive comedy ever made, it sounds like the studio has good reason to be concerned it might not make its money back.

It’s an interesting read, and you can make what you will of it, but one paragraph leaves me scratching my head:

Universal moguls have convinced themselves that religious America will turn out for this family fun in droves. I’m not so sure, and I may look like an idiot at the end of the summer by saying so. Even though the studio is dragging out every trick in the Christian playbook, including that PR firm to the religious right Grace Hill Media, to convince holy-rollers in fly-over country to see this take-off on the already tired Noah’s Ark tale. I suspect The Passion Of The Christ crowd wants stories based on the New Testament than the Old Testament. Leave it to heathen Hollywood not to comprehend that.

Does that sound right to anyone else? Most Christians I know like stories from both Testaments. And while there haven’t been all that many biblical movies in the past few years, audiences have not necessarily preferred the New Testament to the Old.

Case in point: The Prince of Egypt (1998) grossed $101.4 million in North America and $218.6 million worldwide — which, at the time, made it the top-grossing non-Disney animated film of all time — whereas The Nativity Story (2006) grossed only $37.6 million in North America and $45.6 million worldwide.

Even taking into account the fact that one film had a massive production and marketing budget, while the other film was made on a more modest scale, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of pattern here — and if there is, it points in the opposite direction.

Let sleeping Da Vinci Codes lie, people…

The Hollywood Reporter, via Reuters, reports that Italian state attorneys have launched a criminal investigation into The Da Vinci Code (2006), following a complaint filed earlier this year by Catholic clergy who allege that the film violates an Italian law forbidding “obscene” treatments of religion in film. Ten people, including director Ron Howard and author Dan Brown, are named in the complaint, and could in theory be fined or sent to jail.

The authorities say they have no idea why this complaint was filed now, over a year after the film’s release, but I have a theory:

Ron Howard is reportedly planning to shoot the sequel, Angels & Demons, in the near future, and it takes place almost entirely in Rome — and it targets the Catholic Church specifically. At the very least, this is a nuisance suit; but perhaps the complainants think they can stop the sequel from being made in Italy, which — given how important actual geography and famous landmarks are to these stories — might prevent it from being made at all.

WALL-E — what are robots “meant for”?

Last week, some e-pals and I were discussing ‘Religion for the Robots,’ a recent Sightings column by Robert M. Geraci. One of the topics that came up was whether robots would be directly responsible to God or, rather, to their human creators — or both.

Then, on Saturday night, I went and saw the sneak preview of the new Pixar film Ratatouille, and before it, there was a teaser for WALL-E, which comes out next year. I have embedded a YouTube copy of the teaser below; the tagline is: “After 700 years of doing what he was built for, he’ll discover what he was meant for.”

That’s a fascinating distinction. It is common in some circles to say that God is the Intelligent Designer of all life, and to say that God is the one who gives us purpose — but to suggest that WALL-E’s design and purpose are two different things, with presumably two different sources, could open up whole new areas of theology.

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Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.

Canadian box-office stats — June 17

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Spider-Man 3 — CDN $30,570,000 — N.AM $330,016,000 — 9.2%
Shrek the Third — CDN $25,510,000 — N.AM $297,249,000 — 8.6%
Ocean’s Thirteen — CDN $5,990,000 — N.AM $69,810,000 — 8.6%
Knocked Up — CDN $7,710,000 — N.AM $90,482,000 — 8.5%
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End — CDN $22,350,000 — N.AM $273,757,000 — 8.2%
Mr. Brooks — CDN $1,470,000 — N.AM $23,441,000 — 7.3%
Surf’s Up — CDN $1,960,000 — N.AM $34,671,000 — 5.7%
Hostel Part II — CDN $782,212 — N.AM $14,182,000 — 5.5%
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer — CDN $3,100,000 — N.AM $57,400,000 — 5.4%
Nancy Drew — CDN $376,974 — N.AM $7,135,000 — 5.3%

A couple of discrepancies: Based on its first six weeks, the Canadian figure for Spider-Man 3 does not seem to include its IMAX screenings. The film had earned an additional $2,370,000 on IMAX screens as of June 10, which would give a combined figure of at least $32,940,000 for Canada, for at least 10.0% of the North American total — assuming that the American figure has already combined the regular and IMAX revenues.

more Val Lewton remakes on the way

Variety reports that at least three “horror” films produced by Val Lewton in the 1940s might be remade in the near future:

Evolution Entertainment’s horror division Twisted Pictures has formed a joint venture with RKO Pictures and plans to remake four genre pics from the RKO library.

The companies will co-finance development and production of “The Body Snatcher,” a 1945 Robert Wise-directed thriller that starred Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff; the 1943 pic “I Walked With a Zombie”; and the 1946 Karloff starrer “Bedlam.” They’ve yet to select the fourth title from the RKO vault.

Interestingly, two of these titles have been remade before. The Body Snatcher is based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson which has been adapted several times since; and I Walked with a Zombie was apparently remade a few years ago by the ‘Tales from the Crypt’ gang as a movie called Ritual (2001).

Needless to say, I don’t hold out much hope that these new remakes will be any good. The only other Val Lewton film that has been remade, as far as I know, is Cat People (1942), and Paul Schrader’s 1982 version was quite inferior, as I recall. Plus, Variety mentions that the most recent remake of an RKO film was, of all things, Are We Done Yet? — in which Ice Cube took over the role created by Cary Grant in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948). So, that isn’t exactly the best track record.

Evan Almighty and phone sex — oops!

Yikes. Universal Studios has gone out of its way to let people know that the PG-rated Evan Almighty is way, way more family-friendly than its PG-13 predecessor Bruce Almighty. So what happened when Entertainment Weekly‘s Carey Bell dialed the 1-800 number that God, played by Morgan Freeman, uses in the film…? Oops.