What makes Christian films such as God’s Not Dead, Courageous, and Mom’s Night Out a success at the box office? Many Christians contribute this success to prayer and the Holy Spirit. Christian filmmakers resolve to bring change in the hearts and lives of Christians and non-Christians alike.
“The heart of the Christian film industry must be completely and not partially hinged on Christ,” said local filmmaker Charlie Ryan. Ryan, an editor for 5Star Productions in Fort Smith, Arkansas also co-owns Ryan Brothers Productions with his brother Justin Ryan. They produce short films, documentaries, theatrical trailers, and television spots. Ryan has spent the last seven years working as the media director for Evangel Temple, a thriving church in Fort Smith.
Feeding his love for cinematography, Ryan co-wrote and produced a short film, Collide, released at the local Malco 16 Theater in 2012. Ryan’s extensive experience with screenplays and video production, fueled with his love for Christ, establishes him as a culminating independent Christian production artist.
One striking distinction between Christian films produced in Hollywood versus those produced by independent production companies appears (on the surface) to be quality. However, according to Ryan, “Quality alone will not reach people for Christ. I believe that film is an art, and true art is honest art. As Christians, we have been redeemed through Christ, the savior of the world. What greater thing is there to write, paint, film or sing about?”
Paul Bridges, former pastor and Superintendent of Union Christian Academy in Fort Smith believes, “Movies have more influence than anything that takes place on Sunday morning other than the Holy Spirit. Extreme quality movies that reinforce Biblical principles can be evangelistic.”
Christian films, such as Fireproof, God’s Not Dead, Soul Surfer, and Courageous prove that micro-budget faith-based films can succeed at the box office. Each of these movies were produced with an average budget of less than $5,000,000, and the top grossing movie, God’s Not Dead, brought in slightly more than $60,000,000.
Faith-based films produced in Hollywood have shown moderate success with Noah and Exodus, but unparalleled to that of the small independent production companies, such as Provident Films (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous), Pureflix Entertainment (God’s Not Dead), Christiano Film Group (Secrets of Jonathon Sperry, Amazing Love), and Advent Film Group (Hero, Come What May).
Although the quality and budget of these small Christian films may not match that of Hollywood, Christians flock to the message and storyline. Hollywood faith-based films produced with loose translations of the Bible often disappoint Christian audiences according to an article by Emma Coonse, a Christian Post reporter. “They (Hollywood) understand dollars, and I think that’s the only reason they make healthy films,” stated Bridges.
Ultimately “Hollywood’s end goal differs from Christian filmmakers. Their intention is mostly to make money, but the Christian filmmaker’s end goal should present the gospel,” affirmed Ryan.