“Son of God,” the first major cinematic retelling of the story of Jesus in more than a decade, confounded Hollywood elites, mainstream critics, and industry experts Sunday with a staggering $26.5 million box office take.
The Fox release, a brainchild of reality TV producer Mark Burnett and his wife, actress Roma Downey, nearly toppled reigning box office heavyweight Liam Neeson, coming in a close second to his adventure film “Non-Stop.” That film was No. 1 with a $30 million weekend box office.
“Son of God” brings to the big screen an epic from the team that created “The Bible” for cable TV’s History Channel. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado plays Jesus as the film covers his birth, teachings, crucifixion, and resurrection.
It marks the first motion picture about Jesus’ life since “The Passion of the Christ” 10 years ago, according to the film’s website. That movie, from director Mel Gibson, generated $612 million in worldwide ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo.
BoxOffice.com had predicted $17.5 million in weekend sales for “Son of God.” The film’s success also revealed the huge divide between the Christian fan base and mainstream movie critics. The film attracted favorable ratings of 22 percent from critics at Rottentomatoes.com, while 83 percent of fans like it.
“Christian movies are strong,” Ted Baehr, a film critic and publisher of Movieguide, told Newsmax. He that the average Christian film earns about $100 million while a non-Christian movie averages about $7 million. “Hollywood, for many years now, has been shown that movies with Christian faith and values do better at the box office.”
Filmed in Morocco and directed by Christopher Spencer, “Son of God” launches from the New Testament Gospel of Mark, telling Jesus’ story through key moments in his life and crucifixion and continuing through his resurrection.
Downey stars as Mary, the mother of Jesus, but the cast features relatively unknown actors, including Morgado in the title role.
“This really is a love story — the greatest love story ever told,” Downey said as she took to morning television to promote the film.
Morgado, in an appearance on “Kathie Lee & Hoda,” described the storyline as “all about love and passion and optimism. It is a political thriller as well. The thing about this movie that I really enjoy is that it is an epic, but it’s also a really personal and up-close story.”
But playing Christianity’s Savior, he added, was daunting.
“I was in a panic, because I knew the responsibility,” Morgado said. “I went to Jerusalem. I felt the importance of the story.”
Writing on the Dove Foundation’s website, Christian Cinema reviewer Edwin L. Carpenter said the film will take viewers “on a powerful, compelling, and in the end, spiritual journey.
“I found myself spiritually stirred as I watched this movie,” Carpenter wrote in his review. “The brutality of the Crucifixion reminded me of what Christ willingly endured to…Keep Reading at: ‘Son of God’ Blows Away Expectations With $26M Box Office Weekend
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