Monday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
April 23, 2014
Kim Hollis: Heaven Is for Real, a faith-based film featuring Greg Kinnear, finished in second place, ahead of Rio and Transcendence. Its weekend total was $22.5 million, more than twice that of Transcendence. It has also earned $29.6 million since opening on Wednesday, all on a $12 million budget. How did Sony achieve such a magnificent result? Where does this film rank amongst the recent faith-based releases of 2014 in terms of performance (Son of God, God's Not Dead, Noah and now Heaven Is for Real)?
Edwin Davies: They did a savvy job of snapping up a book that is very popular and gearing the film towards the faithful. Also, they set the film apart from most Christian films by casting real actors (okay, they're all second-tier at best, but it says a lot that the likes of Thomas Haden Church and Margo Martindale are several letter grades higher than the Z-list talents and amateurs that usually appear in these sorts of films) and hiring people who can actually make a film. It cost a good deal more than God's Not Dead, but it also looked a lot better and seemed more like a real movie.
That difference in budget is the main reason why I don't think this is as impressive as God's Not Dead, which has done very well for a film that cost so little and didn't have a major studio backing it, but more impressive than Son of God, which had already aired on TV and was basically found money. Noah doesn't really seem to fit with the others since it wasn't trying so hard to appeal to a religious audience, and made choices that might have alienated them in the pursuit of artistic satisfaction, which is the exact opposite of what the other three films have done. I think that the success of Heaven is for Real might be more significant than any of them, though, since it's a clear example of a big studio successfully tapping into the audience that independent faith-targeted companies have been catering to in recent years, and will probably lead to other studios following a similar route.
Brett Ballard-Beach: I think the success of each, as well as audience satisfaction with (including Noah, although it also stands as an exception, for the reasons Edwin noted) has led to a cumulative effect. The films have also been positioned just far enough apart, and are distinct enough that they haven't cannibalized one another. Heaven Is for Real is the perfect example of when to open a film mid-week, in this case both to get word-of-mouth for the weekend and because its target audience would be primed for and might have the available time and desire to catch it early.
I understand David's cheeky remarks re: Kinnear and the utter failure of Rake, but I also think that - although he has never been and will never be one who is an "opener" - he has a wheelhouse of roles such as this, or the father in The Last Song, where he can play an average, decent, hardworking American individual, without descending into cliché or sameness, as well as any of his peers. Any interest I have in seeing this I am willing to attribute to him. (His great performance in Flash of Genius bought him a long line of cred with me.) As for the ranking in terms of performance: I am still blown away that Son of God, with its mostly repurposed from TV storytelling, made over $50 million. Heaven had the greatest chance to break out even if the others before it had not done as well.
David Mumpower: The problem with having so many similarly themed titles excel in such a short period of time is that we run out of new avenues to explain the sameness of the results. After the success of Son of God, several of us mentioned that we anticipated a similar pattern of behavior for the other upcoming titles. As such, we would be hypocritical to act surprised with the release of each one. Heaven Is for Real was provided the most studio support while Son of God had the support of a Hollywood power couple. After the latter film excelled in theatrical release, the popularity of the former title was presumed. The shock would be if it had become the first of the four films to disappoint.