From ‘Noah’ to ‘Exodus’: How Hollywood Fared in its Year of the Bible

exodus gods and kings

From “Noah” to “Exodus: Gods & Kings,” 2014 was supposed to be the year that Hollywood found religion.

Though the faithful have flocked to the multiplexes at times, proving that films that embrace the Bible and its teachings can find an audience, the conversion hasn’t always been smooth.

“These movies do draw an audience, but they’re expensive to make,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst with Rentrak. “These films are still finding their way and trying to find the right voice, and they’re going to have to watch the bottom line.”

“Exodus” could end up being a success for 20th Century Fox, if it does robust business overseas and builds an audience over the Christmas holiday, but the film opened to a mediocre $24.5 million. With a production cost of $140 million plus tens of millions of dollars in advertising and marketing costs, it faces a long road to profitability.

Likewise, “Noah” earned $362.6 million globally, but carried a production budget of $125 million. Those aren’t the kind of margins Hollywood likes to see after theater owners get their cut.

With 77% of Americans identifying as Christians, Hollywood sees a big audience for these kind of films.

“The Bible is a hot commodity,” said Jeff Bock, a box office analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “The secret is to start small, keep the budget manageable and get into grassroots marketing.”

Those were the ingredients that made “God’s Not Dead,” “Heaven Is for Real” and “Son of God” such impressive hits. “God’s Not Dead” earned $62.6 million on a $2 million budget, “Heaven Is for Real” picked up $101.3 million on a $12 million budget and “Son of God” pulled in $67.8 million on a $22 million budget. The foreign box office, where the effects-heavy “Exodus” and “Noah” play well, was a non-entity in these films’ successes, but by keeping costs low, they remain attractive investments.

Christian-themed films without the plagues and floods also largely avoided the questions of biblical accuracy that bedeviled the Old Testament adaptations.

“Hollywood needs to do what they do for any market segment,” said Chris Stone, founder of the market research firm Faith Driven Consumer. “Just as they would for a Hispanic or African-American or LGBT market, they need to have an intimate understanding of our group and need to engage us where we are and tell our story in a way that resonates with us.”

It’s easier said than done, however. Films such as “The Identical” and “Left Behind” were pitched at faith-based crowds, but failed to register at the box office.

The high watermark for biblical entertainment remains “The Passion of the Christ,” which made $612 million on a $30 million budget and was directed by Mel Gibson, a devout Catholic. Gibson’s religious beliefs helped him reach out to Christian moviegoers, analysts say, in a way that “Noah” director Darren Aronofsky and “Exodus” director Ridley Scott, neither of whom were believers, could manage to do.

“Everybody was happy when they hired a female director to make ‘Wonder Woman,'” said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Maybe Christian directors should be making some of these movies.”

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  1. Mihi Rigby says:

    pity that director did not read bible before making film Exodus.

  2. ILLUMINATI, CHEK IT OUT OPEN YOUR EYES TO HOLLYWOOD, ECT PLANS FROM THE DEVIL TO BRAIN WASH PEOPLE AND PUT THEM AWAY FROM JESUS CHRIST. says:

    THIS IS ALL HOLLYWOOD AND ILLUMINATI EFFORTS TO BRAIN WASH YOU TO SEE NOAH AND EXODUS COMPLETLY WITH OUT GOD (JESUS CHRIST) DOING ALL THE MIRICLES AND WONDERS.

  3. JESUS CHRIST IS THE ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN. AMEN. says:

    NOAH, EXODUS ARE COMPLETE BLASFAMY TO THE WORD OF GOD. HOLLIWOOD IS TRYING TO MAKE GOD AS A BAD GUY AND EVIL APEAR TO BE GOOD AND GOOD APEAR TO BE EVIL. THEY ARE BRAIN WASHING ALOT OF NON BELIVERS OUT THERE DONT LET THE DEVIL FOOL YOU. READ THE BIBLE (KING JAMES VERSION) AND FOLLOW CHRIST AS YOUR ONLY SAVIOR TO BE SAVED.

  4. Michael says:

    There’s actually another film- a documentary, premiering Jan. 19th: Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus, which investigates the biblical validity of the exodus. As I understand it, contrary to some beliefs (and some of these comments), the film makes a very compelling case for the historicity of the biblical event.

  5. randyblair2 says:

    As a Christian, I gave Exodus a chance, to my disappointment.
    I wonder if Ridley Scott ever READ the book of Exodus?
    Portraying Moses as an irrational mad man, delusional from hitting his head, is clearly an anti-Semitic affront.
    I’m pretty much telling my Christian friends, and anyone reading this, to simply not bother. Christian Bale’s talents are wasted, adding to the overall disappointment.
    It’s a movie made by non-believers for non-believers.

  6. fred otieno says:

    I love what you are doing we really appreciate. MayGod reachly and abundant ly bless you

  7. rocky-o says:

    the bottom line here is…did they make a good film, not how much money it made (and if you think they are one in the same, you are clearly mistaken)…’heaven is for real’ was one of the better recent ones…questioning and simple…’god’s not dead’ was preachy and heavy-handed to the point of insulting…’son of god’ while beautiful, was, in part, the television mini series ‘the bible’…and ‘noah’ was just plain horrible…period…haven’t seen ‘exodus’ yet, but heard alot of comparisons to ‘noah’, which doesn’t bode well…

  8. Patricia says:

    The power of God is shown in the Old Testament. These movies don’t tell us how to think, they cause us to think, to question, and to be aware. It may not be global warming, it could be sin and wickedness. I just hope we stop teaching lies, because history can teach us some trends.

  9. Will says:

    So, God’s Not Dead profited $60 million, Heaven Is For Real profited $90 million, and NOAH PROFITED $250 MILLION!!!!!! WHY IS THAT BAD???

  10. EV docmaker says:

    EXODUS = ZIONIST PROPAGANDA based on a story that has no historical credibility whatsoever. They have never even dug up a single piece of broken pottery to sustain the myth of Moses in anyway.

  11. Will says:

    Wait, if Son of God, Heaven is for Real, and God’s Not Dead were done so well, why didn’t any of them make more than $100 million while NOAH made $362 million?

  12. Jason says:

    Simple formula: Talented filmmakers + belief in (or respect of) religious texts = probable successful faith-based film. The bible isn’t sacred to the makers of Noah and Exodus, and they were too interested their personal opinions of history, religion and the bible. This isn’t complicated. The audience that turned out for the Passion is still there watching movies. Lowering the bar now is either motivated by a lack of understanding or disdain for the Christian market.

  13. politijim says:

    It would help if the Directors actually BELIEVED in the Bible. Having Biblical skeptics film bible stories is like asking a white supremacist to make a biopic on MLK.

    Unfortunately, many who truly believe in their bibles aren’t very good at their craft (or haven’t had the experience yet to handle the breadth of these kinds of stories.). Or they are too heavy handed with their message rather than being faithful to the story.

    Bruce Almighty was another GREAT example of success (besides PASSION) where an experienced filmmaker actually BELIEVED in the ideas behind his film.

    Too many studios want to fleece the religious flock (more of whom attend church on an average weekend than the entire movie attending public rather than wanting to honor them as those involved with THE ROBE, QUO VADIS and others did.

  14. Traciwinz says:

    First noah was awful. I left when the rocks started talking. Filmmakers can deviate from the good book that shouldn’t be taken so literally. It does read like the comic books of that era n no one can prove anything in the good book really happened. Greeks n Romans believed in many Gods for centuries. We found out those were fairy tales too.

  15. therealeverton says:

    Well the most successful “faith based” film for years, both with awards and box office, is The Life of Pi. it was multi denominational, non preachy and a very entertaining film, that touched on faith, what it truly means and how humans may have misinterpreted the whole thing.

  16. Michael says:

    I guess using that model, only Martians should direct Star Wars

    • Nancy in Alberta says:

      Phil Contrino is exactly right! The liberty taken with recent Biblical stories is offensive to those who believe the Word of God to be of the highest importance. We don’t need high powered names! We need someone who would be sensitive to Biblical truth, and the nuances within the faith. Even stories like the Left Behind endeavor are a bust because things seem to get butchered.

      • Traciwinz says:

        But is the good book really true or just a symbol. They r stories n movies take liberties with stories.

    • Joshua f says:

      Show me where in the entirety of the Star Wars universe, the planet Mars is mentioned and I’ll gladly pay you 20 Truguts. That’s a Star Wars based currency, in case your knowledge of SW economics is also compromised.

  17. Jaymes says:

    Said Phil Contrino, vice president and chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “Maybe Christian directors should be making some of these movies.” Duh!

    • therealeverton says:

      Given that the Old Testament works for Jews, Muslims and Christians, and features mostly Jews, that is nowhere near as big a Duh as it may seem.

  18. Star Messenger says:

    Isn’t it odd that all the stories about God and the Bible happened a long, long, time ago; but, since then, nothing miraculous has happened? That leads me to believe that these stories are nothing more than allegory and metaphor. If not, when was the last time you saw a “water trick”?

    • Momo says:

      According to the Catholic Church, in order for a blessed person to be canonized a saint, there must be at least 2 miracles performed thru the person’s intercession after that person died, and these have to be scientifically and medically verified. They have been canonizing a lot of people recently, so you can check out those miracles because they will be documented. But miracles happen all the time.

    • anon says:

      Can we not have that old argument trotted out right now? This is about making movies, and they are told using all kinds of media, fantasy or otherwise.

    • Ann says:

      There have been miraculous happenings. To find them you must look and study world history. I just finished reading a WWII article on miraculous happenings. But, you have to search these things just don’t pop out.

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