Holy Week or Horror Week? Faith Film Battles Witchcraft at Weekend Box Office
Facing ominous competition, Breakthrough producer DeVon Franklin urges believers to “send Hollywood a message” and support new faith-based film in theaters.
Two newly released films are battling for top position at the box office during the extended Easter weekend — and they couldn’t be more different.
Breakthrough recounts the true story of a teenage boy who fell through a frozen lake and is miraculously revived. In 2015, the city of St. Louis, Missouri rallied around unconscious John Smith as his mother fervently believed for his recovery.
The faith-centered biopic released by 20th Century Fox is produced by DeVon Franklin, the Christian filmmaker behind The Star and Miracles from Heaven.
Meanwhile, horror flick The Curse of La Llorona marks the sixth film in The Conjuring movie universe. Based on an unfounded Mexican folklore tale, it follows a murderous ghost in 1970’s Los Angeles that targets children.
Franklin released a short video to his followers online regarding the weekend box office battle. “Is this holy week or horror week?” he asks.
The two major films are going head-to-head, even as other faith-driven releases including an animated version of The Pilgrim’s Progress seek to attract audiences.
Box Office Scares Or Prayers?
Analysts are divided on which new entry will triumph at the box office.
Prominent Hollywood outlet The Wrap stated the Curse movie is “expected to be… the top film on the weekend charts.” Yet Variety hedged their Easter weekend prediction with the headline: “Box Office Scares or Prayers?”
A former Sony Pictures executive, DeVon Franklin is no stranger to box-office battles. His 2014 film Heaven is for Real, one of the top-five Christian movies of all time, earned $91 million in theaters.
“Listen, I’m competitive for the kingdom,” says Franklin in the video. “Let’s send Hollywood a message that they can no longer underestimate the power of these true films that put God on display. The Breakthrough starts today!”
The film stars Chrissy Metz (NBC’s This is Us) as Joyce Smith, with Topher Grace (Interstellar) as the family’s pastor and Dennis Haysbert (Fox’s 24) as their lead physician. It features new music from Carrie Underwood, Kirk Franklin, rap artist Lecrae and worship leader Phil Wickham, among others.
After meeting the Smith family in 2016, Franklin helped Joyce land a book deal for her family’s story. He guided every step of the faith-centered production, hiring a screenwriter and director, and securing a distribution deal with Fox.
Breakthrough marks the first Fox release since the venerable 83-year-old studio was acquired last month by The Walt Disney Company. Some question whether Disney, known today for its Marvel and Star Wars blockbusters, will embrace faith films like Breakthrough moving forward.
“The Disney/Fox merger, which was a $71 billion-dollar merger, starts with Breakthrough,” says Franklin. “Let’s send a message to Mickey about what we can do with films like this.”
Further Faith-Centered Films In Theaters
Christian values play a significant role in three other films also currently playing nationwide.
Opening in limited release, The Pilgrim’s Progress reimagines the classic 1678 allegory by Puritan preacher John Bunyan as a full-length CGI animated movie. Produced by Revelation Media, it features voice actors including John Rhys-Davies (The Lord of the Rings).
“There is no way John Bunyan could have anticipated the influence his story would have in the centuries to come,” says director Robert Fernandez. “He wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress in a prison cell, because he was prohibited from preaching.”
“I think [God] used Bunyan because he was willing to pay the price,” he concluded. Fernandez also revealed some Pixar talent was involved during their five years working on the feature film.
Also new this weekend, Revival! produced by Harry Lennix adapts the Gospel of John as a stage play with Gospel music throughout. In limited release, concert film Amazing Grace reveals the late Aretha Franklin as never before seen. It captures the 1972 recording of her iconic album at a Los Angeles church, regarded as the best-selling live Gospel record of all time.
Entering its third weekend, civil rights drama The Best of Enemies chronicles the 1971 conflict over racism and segregated schools in Durham, North Carolina. The PG-13 film stars Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) as outspoken Christian activist and mother Ann Atwater whose witness changes a local KKK leader, portrayed by Sam Rockwell.
Still on over 800 screens in its fourth weekend, Unplanned presents the moving true story of pro-life advocate Abby Johnson. The independent film has exceeded all expectations, earning over $16 million thus far. It has generated ongoing cultural discussion of life and abortion issues.
“Many people think of Hollywood as a place that is anti-faith, but my experience has been the opposite,” says Franklin. “I wouldn’t be where I am now, with a track record of success, if I had been afraid to voice my beliefs and identify as a Christian.”
“You have to trust God every step, that’s the only way I know how to do it.”