Box office receipts often tell the story of a franchise in decline.
The 2014 indie film “God’s Not Dead” stunned, well, everyone by netting $60 million at the U.S. box office. The film threw subtlety to the wind in its pro-Christian storytelling, and audiences gobbled it up.
The second film, 2016’s “God’s Not Dead 2,” saw its box office fortunes plummet to $20 million. That’s still a mighty figure for a micro-indie, faith-based production.
By the time “God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness” hit theaters the franchise’s fan base mostly stayed away.
There’s a good chance “Dead” will rise again this fall.
“God’s Not Dead: We the People” boasts a plot that couldn’t be more timely. Here’s the official description:
The God’s Not Dead franchise continues in God’s Not Dead: We the People as Reverend Dave (White) is called to defend a group of Christian homeschooling families.
He finds himself taken aback by the interference of the government, and believing that their right to educate their own children is a freedom worth fighting for. Reverend Dave is called to Washington DC to testify in a landmark congressional hearing that will determine the future of religious freedom in our country for years to come.
The inspirational drama centers around a riveting fight for freedom that starts in the heart of the country, and runs to the corridors of our nation’s Capital Washington, DC. It prompts audiences to ask the compelling question: If your individual liberties are threatened … What Would You Do?
The film’s trailer starts with President Ronald Reagan’s prescient warning about freedom and how easily it can slip trough our fingers. The accompanying music sounds like something you’d hear in a horror movie trailer.
That’s no accident.
“Freedom,” Reagan warned, “is never more than one generation away from extinction.”
The trailer later features a concerned parent warning, “our district teaches a revisionist version of history.” It’s like she’s speaking directly to parents aghast at the racist underpinnings of the Critical Race Theory movement.
“We the People’s” fall release timing couldn’t be more fortuitous. The battle against CRT will only intensify as the school year begins.
The new film’s cast certainly tells a separate story about the current state of Hollywood. Antonio Sabato, Jr., a veteran actor who says the industry has blacklisted him for his conservative beliefs, is part of the ensemble. So is Isaiah Washington, another star whose personal beliefs clash with Hollywood groupthink.
Film critics loathe the “God’s Not Dead” series. The film’s unabashedly Christian perspective doesn’t help, but the series leans into its faith-based narratives, hard, often at the expense of narrative nuance.
Some reviews, though, were over the top. The liberal Guardian’s critic cried, “ban this sick filth.”
The saga still struck a nerve with audiences who rarely see this kind of storytelling on screens big or small. It’s why the franchise is a money-making machine.
By all measures, though, a fourth installment should be a flop given the franchise’s box office trajectory. If “We the People” taps into the country’s rage against government overreach in the Age of Biden, we could be looking at a franchise rebound.