Keep the message true, moviegoers tell Hollywood

Christian moviegoers don't want Hollywood to put an inaccurate spin on their favorite Bible stories. They want the message to be clear -- and God to be honored, observes Job Garcia for Movieguide: The Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment. "For many Christians, their faith and the Holy Scriptures are sacred and must be regarded with much reverence."

That could explain the recent success of SON OF GOD, GOD’S NOT DEAD, and HEAVEN IS FOR REAL. It's certainly why THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST was such a blockbuster hit -- making $370 million at the box office even though the dialogue was in Greek, Latin and Aramaic straight from the Bible -- and why believer-offending films such as Martin Scorsese's THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST bomb -- it lost $6 million. 

"Faithful Christians believe that matters of faith and Scripture must be handled with care," notes Garcia. Recently, word of mouth spread among the faithful that the NOAH starring Russell Crowe. Anthony Hopkins and Emma Watson was not faithful to the Bible and barely mentions God. As a result, it brought in $101 million domestically -- significantly less than the studio expected, given the popularity of Bible-based films. 

Is there a lesson to be learned? "Believers are extremely sensitive about how the Christian faith and narratives of the Holy Bible are portrayed in Hollywood movies," writes Garcia. "Despite this truth, 2014 has been a very prosperous year for faith-inspired movies. With movies like SON OF GOD, GOD’S NOT DEAD, and HEAVEN IS FOR REAL all achieving box office success, major production companies are unquestionably embracing biblical and faith narratives."

Garcia says the release of these faith movies, and more coming this fall, such as THE SONG, give indisputable evidence that there’s a sizable Christian community of moviegoers willing and ready to mobilize for the right picture. The overwhelming number of Christians who go see these religious movies is not only determined by the fact that these movies are considered “faith-based” or “religious,” but also if the movie accurately represents their faith and Scripture.

THE SONG, which will hit theaters September 26, is a modern-day adaptation of the biblical books Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. If you recall, their author, King Solomon, had 1,000 wives and grew up in the shadow of Israel's greatest monarch, King David. The new Samuel Goldwyn Film follows aspiring singer-songwriter Jed King (Alan Powell), who lives in the shadow of his country-music legend father. Jed falls in love, gets married and writes a runaway hit song, The Song, for his new bride. The song becomes an instant hit, thrusting the young couple into the swirling world of fame and stardom.

THE SONG should do well if a recent Christian News Service/Nicaea poll, performed by American Insights, is any indicator. The survey determined that roughly 49 percent of Christians view Hollywood favorably, while 32 percent view it negatively. The poll also revealed that 43 percent of Christians are adamant that their faith is wrongfully being portrayed by Hollywood.

“People would like to be optimistic, but they have been disappointed over the years,” Russ Jones, president of Christian News Service, told Garcia. “This year has given them some hope.”

So, which factors determine whether Christian moviegoers will go see a faith-based movie? "The answer is accuracy," says Jones. "The poll revealed that 42 percent of Christians believe that Hollywood has inaccurately portrayed the Bible. The majority of Christians surveyed, 79 percent, said faithful biblical interpretation is a determining factor to whether or not they will see a faith-based movie.

“The biggest lesson we saw was that historical and biblical accuracy is really important to Christians,” Jones said. “That should give folks a stern warning that it’s crucial to use historical data, historical facts and biblical themes as accurately as possible.”