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Paramount Pictures on Tuesday took the unusual step of revealing internal studio research to counter the results of a dubiously worded survey released by a faith-centric organization that suggested little interest among religious audiences in its upcoming film Noah. The studio also took the rare step of criticizing a media outlet for publicizing that survey.
In an unusually forceful statement, Paramount said it “strongly disputes” an article posted on Variety.com that cited a Faith Driven Consumer survey claiming that 98 percent of respondents were “not satisfied with a biblically themed movie — designed to appeal to you — which replaces the Bible’s core message with one created by Hollywood.” The organization — which was behind the petition to reinstate Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson following his suspension over anti-gay comments — and a story on Variety.com with the headline “Survey: Faith-Driven Consumers Dissatisfied with ‘Noah,’ Hollywood Religious Pics,” equated that general dissatisfaction with disapproval of the upcoming Noah movie.
“The survey question that had the 98 percent response rate did not contain any reference to the film Noah, despite the fact that the Variety reporting implied that it did,” the studio said in a statement. Further, “research from industry-leading firms about the upcoming epic paints a very different picture.”
Paramount then cited measurements from established Hollywood tracking firms National Research Group and the Barna Group that show strong interest in the Darren Aronofsky film, which hits theaters March 28.
“Nielsen’s National Research Group (NRG), the industry’s decades-long standard for measuring prerelease tracking of feature films (and other entertainment offerings), is tracking Noah and has gauged, with still six weeks to go before the film’s release and from self-defined ‘very religious’ moviegoers, that 83 percent of those aware of Noah in the prerelease tracking have expressed interest in seeing the film,” Paramount said in the release.
The studio also cited data from a survey by the Barna Group, which conducts research on the intersection of faith and culture, stating that 86 percent of Christian respondents who are aware of the film said they would recommend Noah to their friends.
Paramount also quoted Barna president David Kinnaman as saying: “On our survey conducted over Feb. 13 through Feb. 15, we found the majority of pastors would recommend that people see the film Noah.”
The movie stars Russell Crowe in the title role. Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, Anthony Hopkins and Logan Lerman also star.
The Hollywood Reporter reported in an extensive Feb. 12 story that Paramount has undertaken an elaborate outreach initiative for faith-based audiences.
Chris Stone, founder of Faith Driven Consumer, stands by the poll and responds that the survey page specifically references Noah.
“We sent an email introducing our survey that squarely mentions Noah and that links to an extensive article in The Hollywood Reporter, and 5,000 people responded, which is significant,” Stone says. “I don’t know how much clearer we could make it that it was about Noah unless we got in their face and screamed it at them. I mean, we did everything but speak from a burning bush and say, ‘This is about Noah.’ “
Paul Bond contributed to this report.
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