By now, nearly everyone on the planet knows about the remarkable success of the movie “The Passion of the Christ.” As of this writing, the film has made almost $1 billion worldwide and is one of the most watched movies of all time. But one of the little known facts about the movie is that a significant part of it’s success came from churches buying block tickets at local theaters.
Paul Lauer, President of Motive Marketing, who was instrumental in marketing the film to Christian audiences told me: “At one point close to the opening of The Passion, I got a call from my contact at Regal Theaters who ran their group sales department. He told me they had never seen so many group sales for any movie before. That was the good news. The bad news was, they were having trouble handling all the requests. That was one of those “good” problems to have.”
Since that time, pastors across the country have discovered the impact they can have when it comes to Hollywood movies. Jonathan Bock, President of Grace Hill Media, another major movie marketing firm says, “Off the top of my head, I can think of more than a half-dozen movies where block ticket sales by churches have made a substantial difference at the box office. On some films, it’s saved the studio altogether.”
The bottom line? Group ticket buying works. The “Passion” was the first movie to feel it’s impact, and once it happened, it got Hollywood’s attention. We even have a phrase in town called “passion dollars” – indicating that film made so much money from Christian audiences, studios now ignore us at their own peril.
Which leads us to the fact that Hollywood got the message – more than once – and if local pastors would be more active in supporting films they believe in, it could have an incredible impact on the actual movies the entertainment industry produces.
In the past, Hollywood has catered to specific, niche audience because it’s good business. That’s why you see niche movies aimed at teenagers, children, singles, the art house crowd, and even the gay community. But recent successes like “The Passion of the Christ,” “Bruce Almighty,” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” proved the Christian audience is the largest “niche” of all.
In fact, considering the size of the Christian audience, cultural commentator Mark Joseph (almost) jokes that instead of making “niche” movies for the “faith-based” audience, Hollywood needs to make niche movies for the “secular” audience, since that crowd is so much smaller.
Pastors take note. Want to change Hollywood? Buy block tickets to movies you can support, and it’s impact will be felt. Paul Lauer explains it this way: “Showing up as a group accomplishes two things: First, it builds box office, and second, it builds hype and buzz for a movie. If we want Hollywood to make better movies, people need to show up when they do. There’s no better way of showing our support than taking a group to see a film.”
Jonathan Bock agrees: “The overall significance of these purchases is only beginning to have, what will be, its eventual cultural impact – namely, the steady evolution of Hollywood recognizing Christians as an important national audience instead of as backwoods reactionary hayseeds.”
Let’s put down the protest signs, buy tickets, and change the entertainment industry at the box office.