October 9, 2007

Several months ago, I recorded an audio commentary for The Nativity Story with my priest. Today, Evan Almighty comes out on DVD, so we recorded a commentary for that, too. You can download all 90.7 megabytes of it by right-clicking here.

August 23, 2007

The summer movie season is pretty much over now. There are two weekends left, to be sure, but the last several days before Labour Day are usually pretty slow. So, with all that said, here is another way to look at the dismal box-office figures for Evan Almighty.

Evan Almighty was one of the year’s most expensive movies, and it faced almost no competition on its opening weekend; the only other new wide releases that week were 1408 and A Mighty Heart, neither of which were particularly big deals. So it was no surprise that Evan Almighty opened at #1 — but it had the smallest opening-weekend gross of any #1 movie so far this summer.

Here are the movies that were #1 for each weekend this summer, ranked from the biggest weekend take to the lowest (note: two films — Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End — were #1 for two weeks in a row, so they turn up twice here):

  1. May 4 — 151.1 million — Spider-Man 3
  2. May 18 — 121.6 million — Shrek the Third
  3. May 25 — 114.7 million — Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
  4. Jul 13 — 77.1 million — Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  5. Jul 27 — 74.0 million — The Simpsons Movie
  6. Jul 6 — 70.5 million — Transformers
  7. Aug 3 — 69.3 million — The Bourne Ultimatum
  8. May 11 — 58.2 million — Spider-Man 3
  9. Jun 15 — 58.1 million — Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
  10. Aug 10 — 49.1 million — Rush Hour 3
  11. Jun 29 — 47.0 million — Ratatouille
  12. Jun 1 — 44.2 million — Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
  13. Jun 8 — 36.1 million — Ocean’s Thirteen
  14. Jul 20 — 34.2 million — I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
  15. Aug 17 — 33.1 million — Superbad
  16. Jun 22 — 31.2 million — Evan Almighty

Of these #1 films, only three have not yet made $100 million in North America. Two of those films — Rush Hour 3 and Superbad — came out in just the last two weeks and seem to be on track to hit that milestone in the relatively near future. The third film, of course, is Evan Almighty, which is currently stalled at $98.6 million. And by all accounts, it cost about ten times as much to produce Evan Almighty as it cost to produce Superbad.

Meanwhile, films that did not open at #1 but have gone on to gross over $100 million anyway include Knocked Up (Jun 1 — $30.7 million — current cume is $147.4 million), Live Free or Die Hard (Jun 29 — $33.4 million — current cume is $132.8 million) and Hairspray (Jul 20 — $27.5 million — current cume is $103.3 million). That’s right, at least two films had lower opening weekends than Evan Almighty but have outgrossed it anyway.

AUG 26 UPDATE: Rush Hour 3 passed the $100 million mark two days ago, and Superbad is now the third film this summer to be #1 for two weeks in a row; it is also keeping pace with Knocked Up.

August 8, 2007

Having flopped in North America, it is time for Evan Almighty to flop overseas. I mentioned earlier that the film’s Japanese release had been cancelled altogether. Now it is playing in Great Britain.

The Guardian reports that the distributor went after the religious market in England as aggressively as they did here:

Helping churches to exploit the faith-friendly content is Universal Pictures, which hired a specialist PR firm to target ministers, Christian publications and websites and promote different ways of using the film. Suggested angles are God: The Hollywood Years, charting the history of the deity on the silver screen, and Noah and 9/11, a discussion of religious extremism.

As part of this drive a dozen “priest screenings” were held around Britain so that ministers were well prepared for the film’s general release.

The Rev David Birt, of Hill House parish, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, said: “I’ve encouraged my flock to see the film. It has interesting subjects – like whether we want a God who is judgmental – and I’ve used it in two sermons already. Films about religion, especially Christianity, are generally devoid of humour … This is a feelgood film for Christian audiences.”

Some organisations have created multimedia resources based on the film, including an internet reality gameshow in which Big Brother meets the Bible and SMS polls asking people to vote on what kind of animal God would be.

One publication, Christianity, changed its cover at the last minute after seeing a preview of the film and devoted a further 3,000 words to it inside, exploring discussion triggers and sermon themes such as salvation from impending judgment, stewardship of the Earth and spiritual discernment.

And did all the PR work in England any better than it did in North America? Apparently not, according to Variety:

In its first outing at a major Euro market, Universal’s laffer “Evan Almighty” opened in fourth spot with a modest $2.3 million at 422 screens.

“The opening was below expectations,” said one London-based exhib, adding that “it is the first summer event movie to disappoint.”

But Brit bookers remain generally upbeat about trade. “The industry was not relying on ‘Evan Almighty’ to deliver. The many other successes have more than compensated.”

“Evan Almighty” received poor reviews from the Brit crix and was dealt another blow by the severe recent flooding in England. Bookers speculate that some auds might have not had the stomach for a pic about a flood — “a bit too close to home,” said one.

Incidentally, my British friend Matt Page reviewed Evan Almighty a couple weeks ago at his Bible Films Blog. Check it out.

July 16, 2007

My third report from the junket for Evan Almighty is now up at ChristianWeek. This report is actually the second one that I wrote, but this newspaper usually waits a few weeks before posting the arts columns online, so it’s the third one to hit the internet.

June 22, 2007

My second report from the junket for Evan Almighty is now up at CanadianChristianity.com. One more is in the pipeline…

June 21, 2007

LOS ANGELES, CA — It has been four years since Bruce Almighty conquered the box office, and a lot has happened at the intersection of faith and film since then.

Many Christians were leery of the film when they heard that it starred Jim Carrey as a man who is endowed with supernatural powers after he complains that God isn’t doing a good enough job of running the world. But many Christians were pleasantly surprised to discover that, despite its bawdy humour, the movie raised serious questions about love, free will, and the need to submit to God’s plan for our lives.


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