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This just in: churchgoers know a bad movie when they see it.
After furiously pandering to evangelical Christians in recent years, the major Hollywood studios are backing away from faith-based marketing schemes that offer churches private screenings and Bible study guides based on a movie’s characters or themes. The reason cited was simple: they don’t work. “I’d rather spend my money elsewhere,” one mogul marketer told the Hollywood Reporter.
The evidence? The faithful didn’t flock to stinkers like “Evan Almighty” or “The Nativity Story.”


The practice of boosting box-office by marketing to Christians was born in 1998, when a producer for the End-Times thriller “The Omega Code” had the idea to give sneak peeks to pastors in the Bible Belt. The pastors were pleased enough by the biblically faithful movie to organize church theater nights, which landed “The Omega Code” in the top ten for box office one slow week in January 1999. The strategy became legend in 2004, when Mel Gibson courted evangelical clergy for his crucifixion-flick, “The Passion of the Christ,” which earned $370 million in the U.S. alone.
But today, says the Reporter article, “many experts now believe ‘Passion’s’ success was an anomaly,” and that, as political consultants have found, devout Christians have a variety of interests that affect how they behave at the box office or the voting booth. “A big misunderstanding is that the faith audience is this one monolithic audience,” says an exec at faith-based marketing firm Walden Media.
But don’t expect the pandering to end altogether. Instead, marketers will be refining their approach–and won’t expect faith-based programs to deliver miracles. Says another marketer, is that “if a movie is largely rejected for various reasons, you can’t expect a faith program to bail it out.”

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