Movie

‘The Shack’ proves faith-based films are worthwhile

This weekend, a high-profile film had the whole country buzzing — and it wasn’t the newest Wolverine installment “Logan.” Nope, I’m talking about “The Shack.” While superhero movies usually open big and have massive marketing campaigns, “The Shack” held up well and still has money to earn, signaling the continued success of the faith-based genre the film falls within.

Some things never go out of style, and Christianity isn’t going away anytime soon. Christian movies succeed the same way an X-Men movie does — because of its devout followers. These are movies that don’t always get the best reviews and are not big-budgeted, but they fill a crucial niche that is often left untouched.

Every year a movie like “The Shack” comes along, and every year we act surprised when the film is a breakout hit. The fact of the matter is, though, that this is a segment of the market that is generally left unattended on a mass scale. There’s no shortage of dinky Christian films, but rarely are they actually released in theaters across America.

While we millennials love our celebrities and Hollywood gossip, the core audience for these films is comprised of the people who feel they are being patronized by the entertainment “elite.” While I am not saying they are right, there is something to be said about the fact that there are so few high-quality films made for this audience, despite the definite size and spending capacity.

If you watch the trailer for “The Shack,” you will notice something very interesting towards the end of the credits. No, not the cheesy religious music, but a line of text that has a phone number to call if you want to purchase group tickets. Think about your history of going to the movies, and tell me, when have you ever called a number to purchase group tickets? Maybe when you were four you heard your dad call Moviefone to buy tickets for your birthday party where you saw “Shrek,” but besides that, this practice is unusual.

Christian movies are so successful because they are not selling to individual consumers, but instead are selling to groups of people in the form of, well, churches. Faith-based films are such home runs because you are guaranteed an audience. Churches often buy tickets by the literal busload.

“The Shack” has, in my mind, every single element necessary for a successful faith-based film: a movie star with wide appeal, a Christian but not overly zealous plot, some familiar faces from the music industry and a country song to boot.

The movie was relatively successful in its opening weekend but was not necessarily a smash hit, earning $16.1 million, according to Forbes. While an average movie drops about 50 percent of its revenue at the box office from the first weekend to the second, I would be on the lookout for “The Shack” to perform better than that mark. You might not have even heard of the faith-based film “War Room” that opened two years ago, but it was briefly the No. 1 film in America and grossed more than 16 times its production budget. Although the budget for “The Shack,” is not yet published, it’s most likely higher than “War Room,” so you can bet this film will make a tidy profit.

To be honest, I will likely never see “The Shack” unless it’s on cable TV in 10 years, and that’s under the assumption cable TV still exists. That being said, even though this movie is not for me — and in this era where we see superhero movie after superhero movie and sequel after sequel — it’s nice to see another specific genre really find its niche and succeed.

Ultimately the success of this genre speaks to the idea that there really is a movie for everyone, and if we can find those people who are craving quality entertainment, they will be more than happy to pay for it. Just because someone does not necessarily agree with our worldviews does not mean they should not be catered to.

Erik Benjamin is a junior television, radio and film major. His column appears weekly in Pulp. You can email him at ebenjami@syr.edu or follow him @embenjamin14 on Twitter.

 

 

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