The highly anticipated film "Heaven is for Real" garnered an impressive estimated $21.5 million this past Easter weekend, nearly double what Johnny Depp's "Transcendence" raked in.
The faith based movie, produced by mega-church pastor T.D. Jakes, is based on a bestselling novel by Christian pastor Todd Burpo and focuses on the near-death experience of his young son, Colton, who discusses meeting Jesus in heaven as well as a number of his deceased relatives after following surgery in 2003.
The film, which opened Easter weekend, has already taken in an estimated $28,500,000 from 2,417 theaters nationwide, more than doubling its $12 million budget. In contrast, Warner Bro's "Transcendence" took in a mere 11.5 million in relation to its $100 million production cost.
"The film definitely played not only to a faith-based audience but to a mainstream audience as well," Rory Bruer, president of worldwide distribution at Sony Pictures Entertainment stated. "The title itself provokes dialogue no matter what you believe. It's based on a book and the true story of this family, so it makes it all that more compelling."
He called the film's positive response "terrific," and said timing was crucial to its success. "Easter was certainly a date that was in the wheelhouse of the film," he stated.
"Heaven is for Real" is the latest of several successful faith-based movies released this year. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "God's Not Dead" took in 4.8 million (now totaling $48.2 million) and Roma Downey's "Son of God," a film centering on the life of Jesus, succeeded at the box office, taking in $59 million upon its release at the end of February. And more faith-based movies are yet to come; Ridley Scott will release the spiritually themed "Exodus: Gods and Kings" in December.
Reverend DeVon Franklin, senior producer for "Heaven is for Real" believes the success of faith-based movies is a strong indication that moviegoers crave films they can bring the whole family to.
"the audience is saying and consistently saying this year...we want more movies that are faith-affirming, that are life-affirming, that are uplifting, that are inspirational."
Earlier this year, Franklin stated that he hopes the film's success will open the door for more faith-based movies.
"The success of this movie opening weekend directly correlates to the decision to green-light and make more of them. It's an immediate thing," he stated. "If there's a sense that there's a growing market and a growing hunger for more films like this, then the desire to continue to provide more films will increase, and decisions will be made to be able to make more films like this."