'Exodus': Christian Audiences Say Their Attendance Will Depend on Adaptation's Accuracy

"Exodus"
"Exodus"
 Twentieth Century Fox

While spine-to-screen adaptations have always been popular, a handful of this year's offerings have zoomed in on one particular text: the Bible.

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First, husband-and-wife producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey compiled and expanded their Bible miniseries to narrate the story of Jesus Christ in Son of God, released in February and grossing $67 million worldwide. Then, Darren Aronofsky directed Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly in the film epic Noah, released in March and grossing $356 million worldwide, despite being banned in several countries.

And this December, Ridley Scott will unveil Exodus: Gods and Kings, the Fox film that follows the story of Moses (Christian Bale) and the Israelites' journey out of Egypt.

Additionally, big-screen releases such as Moms' Night Out (the "mom-com" starring Sarah Drew, Patricia Heaton and Andrea Logan White), God's Not Dead (in which a student debates his professor over God's existence) and Heaven Is for Real (the book adaption starring Greg Kinnear) each have hoped to lure faith-based audiences to the theaters.

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According to a new American Insights survey of 1,200 respondents from Oxford-based Christian News Service, two-thirds of all adults and 74 percent of Christians are likely to see a movie related to God. However, 79 percent of those polled believe "historical and biblical accuracy is important." In regard to Exodus, 80 percent of the Christian respondents plan to see the Scott film if it remains true to biblical accounts, compared to 29 percent if it does not.

"Taking liberties with the Bible for dramatic purposes like Dan Brown did in The Da Vinci Code, or the more recent film Noah, is not something that we are willing to let stand unchallenged," said Charles Parlato, founder and CEO of Investors 4 Charity, an entertainment project funding platform currently featuring the 2016 film NICAEA.

Paramount was initially concerned about the reception for Noah, since the plot strays from the biblical text, which was made clear in the film's extensive marketing plan. "If you want to put it on the spectrum, it probably is more accurate to say this movie is inspired by the story of Noah," vice chair Rob Moore previously told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that the film reflects "the key themes of the Noah story in Genesis — of faith and hope and God's promise to mankind."

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After the release of Noah, Moore told THR, "It is OK to have art inspired by the Bible. But the biggest thing we learned from the preview process is that this is what was holding people back. Once we told them it wasn’t literal, people responded to it very differently. This was a huge turning point. The other important element was that we told people that Noah was consistent with themes in the Bible. The National Religious Broadcasters put out a press release talking about the change in the marketing campaign, and this also helped communicate these points. … There are two groups of people: one that is excited that Hollywood has made a blockbuster based on the Bible and book of Genesis, and a small vocal minority who don’t think it’s OK to make a movie that isn’t literal and who don’t have the respect to let people evaluate it for themselves."

Exodus also stars Sigourney Weaver, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley. The film is set to hit theaters Dec. 12.

Email: Ashley.Lee@THR.com
Twitter: @cashleelee

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