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Harsh Reality Check for Red State Movies

'Unsung Hero,' 'Cabrini,' 'Ordinary Angels' can't duplicate 'Sound of Freedom' success

This time last year “Sound of Freedom” shocked just about everyone in Hollywood.

The July 4th release had sat on Disney’s shelf for nearly five years before Angel Studios set it free.

The result? The year’s most unlikely blockbuster, trumping “Fast X,” “The Flash,” “The Marvels” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

A new “Sound” rang out over the weekend, but the results proved more muted.

Sound Of Hope: The Story Of Possum Trot | Official Trailer | Angel Studios

Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot” has earned $6.6 million in its opening, five-day frame on 2,200 screens. The film’s modest budget, in the $8 million ballpark, means it should be profitable in the short run.

That’s especially true since the film boasts big word of mouth energy (A+ CinemaScore, plus 97 percent “fresh” audience rating at RottenTomatoes.com).

It’s still a far cry from “Sound of Freedom,” which was 2023’s biggest movie story outside the “Barbenheimer” craze.

“Sound of Hope” features a strong faith sentiment, the kind of tale that appeals to Red State USA. We follow a Christian couple (Nika King, Demetrius Grosse) who inspire their community to adopt the most challenging children in the foster care system.

Other Red State-friendly films have also struggled to break out this year.

Consider “Unsung Hero,” the true story behind Christian singers King + Country. “Cabrini,” the fact-based tale of a determined nun who established a network of adoption centers, also boasted strong heartland values.

Those films earned $20 million and $19 million, respectively.

Cabrini | Final Trailer | Angel Studios

Once again, small budgets mean those films avoided the dreaded red ink wave. That’s also the silver lining behind “Ordinary Angels.” The Hilary Swank film followed a community rallying behind a very sick child. Its $13 million budget means its $19 million haul won’t spell doom for Lionsgate, the studio behind the project.

And then there’s “Something to Stand For,” a limited release featuring Mike Rowe’s salute to America. The film debuted in less than 1,000 theaters and has earned $1.3 million to date.

Conservative audiences once complained Hollywood didn’t create enough stories that cater to their values. That’s no longer the case. The Daily Wire is a full-scale entertainment shop, offering documentaries, children’s shows, feature films and more.  

The Blaze and The Daily Caller are nipping on its heels.

Angel Studios added theatrical films to its content roster last year, including the aforementioned “Sound of Freedom.” Next up? “Bonhoeffer” this November.

Bonhoeffer | Official Teaser | Angel Studios

 

The recent box office numbers don’t suggest the Red State movie wave has failed. Sensations like “Sound of Freedom” don’t come along every day. A healthy film industry wouldn’t bank on these sudden smashes for profitability.

Plus, these films offer something mainstream Hollywood films often lack.

Faith. Redemption. Inspiration. Hope.

This creative space will continue to grow. Audiences will increasingly seek it out for alternative tales that speak to their worldview. assuming the quality matches conventional fare.

So far, so good.

And, by keeping both budgets and expectations low, platforms are minimizing the risks involved with high-stakes movie making.

13 Comments

  1. I know it’s probably a good movie and story but I just don’t really have any interest in these kinds of stories.

  2. I think the entertainment industry needs to stop using opening weekend at the box office as a success measure. Many of us don’t go to movies much, we prefer to stream in the comfort of our own homes.

    1. Old thinking dies hard. And you’re right … some movies have ‘legs’ and outperform the original box office receipts. Others spring to life on streaming/VOD.

  3. “Conservative audiences once complained Hollywood didn’t create enough stories that cater to their values. That’s no longer the case.”

    ‘Hollywood’ isn’t making these movies. ‘Hollywood’ has done its best to stifle them! ‘Hollywood’s’ greatest disappointment is that these movies are not losing money, as opposed to all the multi-cultural, woke, Girl-boss, 150-million-dollar tripe that ‘Hollywood’ keeps trundling out.

  4. Sound of Freedom was compelling as a story and very well directed. It made us want to see more from Angel Studios. We caught Carbrini right wen it came out. Beautifully shot and well acted — but very disappointing in its feminist tone, making a Catholic saint into an essentially secular social worker in a habit. It was preachy, but not about the church or Jesus Christ. We don’t rush out to support these films now…they have to win us over.
    Ordinary Angels (from a different studio) was quite enjoyable in its small way. There is hope. Well told stories are going to draw enough people to be profitable. Overall, I am encouraged and hope for more and better talent to arise.

    1. What’s wrong with being a social worker and a feminist? I’m a social worker, and we help people and serve the needy and poor underserved areas. How can that possibly be a problem? Isn’t that what Jesus was about?

      1. Jesus cared about justice. So does the Gid we serve, Micah 6:8 is a clear statement of that fact (there are.many others too, like James’s:27). Something many Christians have lost today. Thank you for your service, it is indeed a frontline of ministry

    2. Wayne – interesting point about Cabrini. I didn’t feel that as strongly as you did, but the trailer suggested a more woke presentation. That might have scared away some of the core audience.

  5. Conservative films have to avoid the trap that leftist films often create. It has to have a good story, hero’s journey, compelling characters, good pacing, the works. You can’t just shout about a message no matter how noble. It has to be entertaining first. I had high hopes for Lady Ballers, but they played it too safe. It should’ve been on par with raunchy 80’s comedies.

  6. But let’s look at Furiosa – a liberal critics darling (90%) budget 168 million. Domestic 67,428,417. Worldwide they get less of cut but even if they got all of it D+W is 172 Million. This was before the marketing and other expensive. A big bomb.

    It’s also marketing. These films don’t have much marketing. I would love to see Rowe’s film. I didn’t even know it was out.
    Not every movie is for the big screen. Godzilla Minus One was great on the big screen. These others, I would rather enjoy at home

  7. It’s tough to sell movies about adoption. Not usually the kind of subject that lends itself to big ticket sales. Even if the movie is well made and reviewed, it’s just not a very sexy subject for moviegoers.
    Same goes for most documentaries. With a kajillion docs available on YouTube for free and more on standard TV, god luck getting people to get in the car, drive to a theater and shell out 15 bucks (not counting refreshments).
    Child trafficking, on the other hand, is a much easier sell for a night at the movies.

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