The low-budget indie christian film God’s Not Dead turned heads (or computer mouses) when it finished its opening weekend with a suprising 9.2 million from just 780 theaters.
Josh Wheaton (played by Disney Channel’s Shane Harper), a freshman college student, enrolls in a philosophy class. The professor (Kevin Sorbo) makes all the students sign a “God is Dead” statement in order to pass the class. Josh is at ends, wanting to defend is belief in God but needing to pass the class to fill a degree requirement. The professor makes a deal with him. Josh does a series of debates with his stance that “God is Alive.” If he succeeds he passes the class, if he loses then he flunks.
The film follows themes of facing challenges, family tension, beliefs, success and much more.
The movie industry has been deemed with the unofficial title of “Year of the Bible in Hollywood.” Son of God came out in February, God’s Not Dead and Noah in March and Exodus in December. Many were shocked that a low-budget film that was seemingly unheard about did so well. Its strong marketing efforts may have been the reason for the strong opening weekend turnout.
Ash Greyson, CEO of social media consultant Ribbow Media, oversaw the social media marketing for the film. Greyson did research into the different niche markets of christian movie goers (young ones, older ones, ones that listen to pandora, ones that watch TV frequently).
“We’re not buying a demographic, we’re buying a committed audience. It’s all about peeling the onion,” Greyson said during an interview with The Wrap.
Greyson looked into various platforms,seeing which ads grabbed the most attention. He didn’t want generic ads that were broad and people passed over. He placed potential movie goers into niche categories based on what actor from the films cast they liked the most.
A few certain factors came together that provided the film with a successful box office return.
- The marketing campaign didn’t do broad advertisements, it catered to niche groups
- The film followed everyday issues, a far distance from the big budget films around it (Need for Speed, Divergent)
- In-depth research was done to see how varying levels of Christians responded to faith-biased films
Even though the film has been panned by critics and mixed my audience, it proves the power in niche marketing. Target people with ads they want to see, that relate to them.
UPDATE (3/31/2014): The film continues to succeed, making nearly 8.8 million in its second week. The second week gross is just a 4.5% decline from the first week.
- First Week: 9.2 million from 780 theaters ($11,817 per screen average)
- Second Week: 8.8 million from 1,178 theaters ($7,468 per screen average)
image via imdb.com