Monday, November 28, 2011

Was Courageous a Success?

There’s no secret that Christian movies have recently struggled at the box office. The numbers speak for themselves. To Save a Life grossed only $3.7 million, Letters to God grossed $2.8 million, The Grace Card grossed $2.4 million, and most recently The Mighty Macs managed to make only $1.8 million.

However, there is one exception. Sherwood Pictures has constantly achieved remarkable results. In 2008, their third film, Fireproof, made an impressive $34 million at the box office. It created an enormous buzz within the film industry, especially in Christian circles. As a result of their success, there was much anticipation for the upcoming release of their new film, Courageous, which hit the theaters back in September. Some industry experts speculated the new film could make $50 million or $60 million in its initial theatrical run.

So was Courageous a success? Defining success can be very subjective. There are two ways to approach success in terms of evaluating Courageous—spiritually and financially. Were people impacted by the movie? Were lives changed? Did Courageous encourage men to be better fathers and better husbands? There is no way I can answer those questions. Only the producers will be able to evaluate the spiritual effectiveness of their film. However, financially we do have the numbers. Currently, Courageous has made $32.7 million and is nearing the end of its theatrical run, so that number will not likely increase by much. Most Christian filmmakers would be thrilled with those results. It’s an impressive number.

But I’m not sure that’s what Affirm, a division of Sony Pictures, had in mind. They put a lot more money, time and effort in promoting and marketing Courageous than they did Fireproof. And, basically, they have achieved the same results. As we know, costs have risen over the past three years. Financially the results they have achieved are probably less.

Courageous, perhaps, has proven a point. Is there a ceiling for a Christian film? Sherwood Pictures has developed an extensive network to help promote and market their films. Their use of social media has been groundbreaking in terms of reaching their audience. So they know how to get the base out. But in order to really hit the big numbers, say $60 million plus, it is going to require a different kind of movie. The industry calls it a crossover. For example, Soul Surfer and Blindside are films that play well within the Christian audience but are also capable of impacting a larger, more mainstream movie audience.

I don’t see Sherwood Pictures changing the type of pictures they make any time in the foreseeable future. I think the question is what does Affirm plan to do in the future. If they are interested in achieving bigger results, they may very well embrace films that have the potential to become a “crossover” movie.

I suppose the issue of success is tied to whomever you talk to. There’s no doubt that some people will see a $34 million to $36 million gross as a failure. Maybe expectations were just too high.

But I think we have to put it in perspective. Courageous had an opportunity to play for several weeks on over 1,200 screens nationwide. It reached a significant audience. Consider, at the same time, that Sony released the George Clooney film, The Ides of March, which made only $39 million. Obviously, Clooney had many more resources at his disposal. Courageous was made for only $2 million. That amount is basically what Hollywood pays their caterers for a typical film shoot.

1 comment:

  1. Not only will the future of faith film require 'crossover' appeal, but will need to have mainstream commercial production value as well. The bar must be raised.