From Darren Aronofsky’s Noah to Timur Bekmambetov’s Ben-Hur, if there was any major Hollywood studio that committed itself to the recent Bible-movie revival, it was Paramount. (Fox came a close second by producing Exodus: Gods and Kings and distributing Son of God.) And Paramount owed its interest in the genre partly to the fact that its vice chairman, Rob Moore, was an evangelical Christian.
Now comes word, via Variety, that Moore is leaving the studio.
The immediate cause of Moore’s departure, according to Variety, is the recent nixing of a sale championed by Moore that would have seen China’s Wanda Group buy a minority stake in the studio. The higher-ups at Viacom, which owns Paramount, had already ousted a Viacom chairman who was in favour of the sale last month.
But the studio has also been having a very bad year at the box office, with costly flops like, well, Ben-Hur. The studio’s best-performing film so far is Star Trek Beyond, which at $157.8 million in North America is doing significantly less well than the two Star Trek films that preceded it (both of which earned north of $228 million).
Viacom also recently indicated that it expects to lose over $100 million on a film called Monster Trucks, which doesn’t even open until January, four months from now.
Deadline notes that Moore’s faith motivated his involvement with the biblical genre — and it notes that those films, too, didn’t do as well as the studio would have liked:
Moore was known as Hollywood’s highest-ranking Evangelical Christian. A member of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship church in West Los Angeles, he repeatedly sought ways to bring the faith-based audience to mainstream Paramount films. But Ben-Hur badly missed the mark, with roughly $26 million in domestic ticket sales on a reported budget of about $100 million. And Darren Aronfsky’s Noah, released in 2014, was only a little less problematical. The film had a middling $363 million in worldwide sales on a budget of around $125 million, as wary believers criticized the liberties it took with the Biblical book of Genesis.
Two years ago, Aronofsky told The Hollywood Reporter that Moore’s Christianity was one reason he made Noah at Paramount instead of at some other studio:
Aronofsky says Moore’s Christianity is one reason he set up the movie at Paramount when there were other suitors: “It was written by two Jewish kids, and to get his reaction gave us the confidence that there was a bigger audience for the film.” Moore concurs: “Certainly the conversations we had about the movie took place at a very different level than a lot of other people in terms of my understanding of the story.”
Moore also got a youth pastor from his church to serve as the film’s “biblical advisor”.
Moore also played an active part in promoting Ben-Hur to religious audiences.
Moore spoke about his experiences in the movie business — and how he dealt with the controversies around Noah — just before the film’s release:
Moore hasn’t commented on his departure from Paramount, and there is no word yet as to what he might do next. But I wish him well, and I thank him for the role he played in reviving the biblical genre, especially where Noah is concerned.