(RNN) - Improved technology and open movie screens are generating opportunities at the box office for faith-based movies like God's Not Dead and Heaven is For Real, says Los Angeles-based movie industry attorney Tom Ara.
Digital technology has made the production and delivery of movies cheaper, meaning a movie like God's Not Dead can be produced for about $2 million, said Texas-based filmmaker Ya'ke Smith. Digital has rendered costly movie reels obsolete, and editing digital film is less expensive, Ara said.
The film industry also has been decentralized during the past decade, Ara said. Big studios aren't making as many $100 million blockbusters leaving a chunk of the 4,000 or so movie screens for the taking.
"The entertainment industry has undergone a massive revamping in recent years," Ara said, adding that access to theaters no longer runs exclusively through industry titans like Paramount, Disney and Warner Bros.
"Now, if you have a movie you have produced with money from an investor, you can get that movie in theaters around the country," Ara said. Theaters book directly now with distributors, and are more willing to take a gamble on a movie on a revenue-sharing basis, Ara said. Social media also makes it easier and less expensive to target-market movies to potential audiences, he said.
More films like Heaven is for Real and Son of God should be on the horizon based on the success of those now filling theater seats, Smith said.
"Hollywood looks for trends and once they identify an audience need, they fill it," Smith said. "It's no coincidence that these started off as small films being made on the fringes of mainstream cinema. The audience hadn't been proven or cultivated. But once it had been, mainstream companies took notice and found ways to also get a piece of the pie."
Smith said Noah has made around $300 million worldwide, and a Moses film is already in the works.
"Heaven is For Real will more than likely make all its money back and then some," he said. "So these films will continue to get made as long as the audience embraces them."
More faith-based films haven't been made in the past because Hollywood didn't fully understand the specific market, and was reluctant to risk millions of dollars venturing from proven money-making movie subjects, Ara said.
"Studios make $100 million box office films," he said, leaving them to put that kind of money into proven winners like Spiderman or Iron Man, or animated movies or a superheroes avenging evil. It's a market Hollywood understood and they had a fear of misfiring and losing money, Ara said.
Smith said there have been huge productions relating to the Bible in the past, but not as many as audiences can choose from now. Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments come to mind. Both came out in the 1950s and featured Charlton Heston.
"Passion of The Christ made over $600,000,000 worldwide and Fireproof and Courageous brought in some nice revenue as well," he said. "I think the issue is that Hollywood didn't quite know how to reach the Christian audience and keep them engaged, or coming to the theaters. So, now they've realized that if you bring in individuals that Christians respect and listen to, you can get them coming to the movies constantly. Prime example: Bishop T.D. Jakes producing Heaven is For Real is a great way to reach a mainstream Christian audience because his church alone has 30,000 members, and he is very well respected amongst a majority of churchgoers."
A great idea, a real-life story like Soul Surfer, and touching the hearts of audiences is part of a successful formula for values films, Ara said.
"Don't want to saturate the market, but there is plenty of room," he said.
Smith wants to fill some of the room with his own works featuring faith and values.
He now is in post-production on a short film entitled Dawn, which will be out in late summer or early fall. Also, Smith's award-winning feature, WOLF, which tells the story of a family that struggles to deal with the knowledge that their son was molested by their pastor, is out now via iTunes and Amazon.
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