Lost amid the weekend dominance of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” was another eye-popping hold by the faith-based drama “God’s Not Dead.”
The Christian indie film from Pure Flix Entertainment is up to $32.5 million at the domestic box office after finishing fourth with $7.7 million. That was just a 12 percent drop from the previous week; the week before it declined less than 5 percent. Distributor Freestyle Releasing jumped the screen count by 398 theaters two weeks ago and by 580 prior to the past weekend, and will do it again. Freestyle President Mark Borde told TheWrap Monday that it planned to add around 200 theaters by Friday.
“God’s Not Dead” is the story of a college student trying to sway his skeptical prof, with a cast that includes TV stars Kevin Sorbo, Shane Harper and Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty.” The critics hate it — it’s at 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes — but the film has found its Christian niche, thanks to a cleverly targeted social media campaign.
To put “God’s Not Dead” in perspective, the Biblical epic “Noah” finished third this weekend with $17 million, a 61 percent fall off from its No. 1 opening last weekend. To be fair, Darren Aronofsky‘s effects-laden take on the Old Testament is targeting a much broader — and global — audience via Paramount. It’s taken in $72.5 million domestically so far, which means it will probably hit $100 million, and it’s already passed $106 million abroad.
But its production budget was $125 million, while “God’s Not Dead” was $5 million. That’s apples and oranges to be sure, but in terms of return on investment, David’s looking better than Goliath at this point.
The biggest winner, at least in terms of ROI, could still be Mark Burnett’s “Son of God.” The feature that the reality kingpin and his wife Roma Downey cobbled together from his miniseries “The Bible” has pretty much topped out domestically with $58 million after six weeks.
That’s impressive given it cost less than $10 million to transfer to the big screen, and it still has its foreign campaign to go. Relativity International has sold it to more than 60 overseas markets, where it will begin rolling out next weekend. Sun Distributor Group has the rights across Latin America, and plans a major release timed to coincide with Easter week.
The parade of faith-based films isn’t stopping anytime soon. The biggest looks to be Chernin Entertainment’s “Exodus,” a 3D epic based on the story of Moses from director Ridley Scott, which Fox has set for Dec. 12.
But before that, Sony’s TriStar will roll out “Heaven Is for Real” on Wednesday, April 16. It’s based on “Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back,” the best-selling Christian book written by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent. Greg Kinnear and Kelly Reilly star.
And three weeks later, TriStar will be back with the low-budget Christian comedy “Moms Night Out,” which stars Sarah Drew, Trace Adkins, Sean Astin and Patricia Heaton.
Neither of those screams box-office breakout, but Sony knows how to market movies like this. They proved it in 2011 when they turned “Courageous,” a similarly faith-based tale that was made for $2 million, into a $34 million sleeper hit.