Since 2002, more than 25 million copies of pastor Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life have been sold, making it the bestselling hardback in American history according to Publisher’s Weekly. More than 40 million copies of pastor Tim Lahaye’s Left Behind book series have been sold, making them one of the best-selling books of fiction in history.
Religion is ranked #1 among the Top 16 categories of the total consumer book market revenues, according to CBAonline.com. “We see no cap to the religious category in the general market …Our sales are only limited by our ability to execute.” The America Research Group reports that “the Christian retail industry is currently doing about one-sixth of its potential. That is why the opportunity is so huge.”
Inspirational or “Christian” radio has gone from a handful of stations 20 years ago to over 2,000 today, and Contemporary Christian Music has become one of the fastest-growing music genres, and a billion dollar industry.
Faith-based TV shows like Touched By An Angel and Joan of Arcadia netted high TV ratings during their runs, while inspirational shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition continue to earn top ratings today.
When Motive’s business plan was created in 2002, our central premise was that “the same consumers who are already consuming faith-based and family-friendly books, music, TV and radio will likewise consume high quality values-based, faith-based, and family-friendly films. The film/video product category is ripe for explosive growth within this category…a goldmine for the company that can deliver.”
These predictions, and the marketing blueprints laid out in Motive’s 2002 business plan, were tested and validated in 2003 with the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Motive was engaged by Gibson to design and execute what became the most successful grass roots movie marketing campaign in history.
Stunning both Hollywood and the world, Passion earned $125 million in its first five days (the highest box office gross ever for a five-day period starting on a Wednesday) and became one of the top 10 movies of all time, grossing over $1 billion worldwide in box office and DVD sales.
Motive followed that success with another large-scale grass roots campaign for Disney/Walden’s The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, effectively attracting both mainstream and faith-based audiences, and helping the film gross $300 million in domestic box office and over $1 billion dollars worldwide.
One industry executive told the press, “A studio executive seeking to reduce ‘downside risk’ and increase ‘upside possibilities’ could do so just by shifting production dollars out of R-rated movies into G, PG, and PG-13 movies” (Los Angeles Daily News).
Yet on a weekend in September, 2008, not a single family-friendly movie was playing at movie theaters in America. The result? Families stayed away, and the top 12 films of the weekend grossed only $51.6 million at the box office, the lowest weekend income in seven years, according to Media by Numbers.
Just two weeks later, a lower-budget faith-based movie surprised the industry by taking the #4 box office position. “Coming from seemingly out of nowhere…,” said www.boxofficeguru.com, the film “brought in an estimated $6.5M from only 839 screens for a strong average of $7,764, second highest in the top ten. The film has been heavily promoted to Christian groups and proves once again that religious-themed films can bring in an audience.”
The Faith and Family Market is a potential goldmine for companies that can satisfy the demand for products and services with high quality and high moral values.
The successes of Passion and Narnia came as no surprise to Motive Entertainment and others who had been paying attention to the growing demand within the Faith and Family market.
With 43% of adult Americans attending religious services weekly (over 130 million people every Sunday) and 63 million American adults saying they have an “active faith,” which includes weekly church attendance, prayer, and Bible reading (Barna Research), it is clear that faith-based consumers represent a huge, viable market. (18,000,000 Americans will go to a movie theater this weekend, but more than 135,000,000 will go to church.)
And this market has a pent up demand driven by concerns over the content coming out of Hollywood. A study by Public Agenda showed that “many parents feel cornered by a popular culture that is antithetical to their beliefs and values.” 47% said they were concerned about shielding their children from the media (by age 17 the average American child has consumed 40,000 hours of TV, movies and videos).
MovieGuide’s Ted Baehr believes this is why values-driven movies like Narnia – which appeal to both the general market and values-based consumers – perform the best at the box office. Baehr has been analyzing film content and box office performance for over 15 years, and has found that high-quality films with strong moral values and minimal sex, language and violence do better:
|Film Content||B.O. Average|
Movies with strong Christian and redemptive worldview
Movies with very strong moral and/or biblical worldview
Movies with excessive violence
Movies with extreme foul language
Movies with strong graphic sexual immorality
Movies with strong explicit nudity
Similarly,a study commissioned by the Dove Foundation showed that of the 2,982 films given a wide U.S. release from 1989 to 2003, G-rated films yielded the highest gross profit – $79 million on average – while R-rated films earned only $7 million, and PG and PG-13 films earned about $28 million and $23.5 million respectively. G-rated films generated 11 times more gross profit than R-rated films, and were more lucrative than R-rated films in net profit per film, net video profit per film and ROI per film.