Tomorrow, Paramount releases Ben-Hur, a movie with an obvious faith-based hook — and, coincidentally or not, this morning they released a trailer for Same Kind of Different as Me, an upcoming adaptation of a popular faith-based book.
There have been a few films lately based on the stories of people who say they caught a glimpse of Heaven during a near-death experience. Miracles from Heaven — which comes out on DVD today — adds an interesting wrinkle to the genre: in this case, a girl who has been suffering from a rare digestive order for years falls into a hollow tree and has her vision there, and once she is rescued, it turns out she is healed.
Most of my energy over the last few weeks has gone towards writing about various Bible-themed productions — Risen, The Young Messiah, Of Kings and Prophets, Ben-Hur, even the upcoming The Passion Live — but I figured I’d take a moment to say a few words about Miracles from Heaven, which opened on Wednesday.
Just a few quick newsbites today — all of which, as it happens, are about brand new TV shows that will be spin-offs or reboots of existing films.
The first thing you notice, when you pop the Heaven Is for Real disc into your player, is the trailers. Four of the five trailers that kick things off are for “faith-based” films of one sort or another, all of them co-produced by Sony’s Affirm Films division. (The films in question are When The Game Stands Tall, Moms’ Night Out, Courageous and Soul Surfer.) But nestled in the middle of that pack is a trailer for… The Amazing Spider-Man 2. One of these things is not like the other, right?
The funny thing is, the inclusion of that ad makes perfect sense — and not just because the Spider-Man films are also distributed by Sony. If you’ve seen Heaven Is for Real, then you know that Colton Burpo, the boy whose near-death experience the film is all about, has a toy Spider-Man. Indeed, the book on which the film is based mentions this toy a few times, and on page 33, the toy is explicitly described as “Colton’s favorite toy, his Spider-Man action figure.” (The bulk of the book takes place in 2003, i.e. one year after the first Spider-Man film.)
So the presence of Spider-Man on this disc isn’t just a case of corporate synergy. Even so, the inclusion of this detail, combined with the exclusion of other, more pertinent details from the book, serves as a helpful reminder that this film is no mere independent Christian film, but reflects a major studio’s effort to cater to the “faith-based” market while appealing to the broadest possible audience.
The “faith-based” genre produced another dud this past weekend. Persecuted — in which an evangelist is framed for murder by a corrupt politician, thereby unleashing “an unprecedented era of persecution” — opened to a measly $851,391 on 736 screens this week.
The film ranked #19 at the box office. Four of the films that ranked above it actually played on fewer screens (Think Like a Man Too, Edge of Tomorrow, Chef and especially Boyhood), and the film’s $1,157 per-screen average was the second-lowest in the top 25.
This comes just five weeks after the once-hyped Alone Yet Not Alone opened to $534,626 — on only 103 screens! — before sputtering out with less than a million bucks altogether. (The film had earned $887,851 as of July 2, and presumably not much more since then.)