What’d you do this weekend? Watch John Legend play Jesus? Well, the folks at Pure Flix were hoping you would go see the latest installment in their God’s Not Dead series, called God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness.
This one is all about a pastor whose church is on the campus of a public university. The school doesn’t want it there — persecution! — and the pastor will do anything to fight back… even enlist the help of his atheist attorney brother, played by John Corbett (of Sex and the City and My Big Fat Greek Wedding).
You can take a wild guess as to how the rest of the plot plays out, and you wouldn’t be far off the mark. That’s what we’ve come to expect from Christian movies. They’re predictable, full of stereotypes, and never meant to challenge the core beliefs of their intended audience.
But man oh man, do they make money.
The first God’s Not Dead truly was a phenomenon, making more than $60 million during its run in theaters in 2014. The sequel, which came out in 2016, made $20 million. That likely covered all the production costs and then some, but it wasn’t a blockbuster by any means.
The third one? Not even close to the other two.
We can only judge it financially based on the opening weekend, but here’s a quick comparison.
God’s Not Dead made $9,217,013 in 780 theaters (an average of $11,817) its first weekend.
God’s Not Dead 2 made $7,623,662 in 2,419 theaters (an average of $3,152).
God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness made an estimated $2,630,000 in 1,693 theaters (an average of $1,553).How bad is that? Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas made more money per theater on its opening weekend, and that movie’s one of the worst rated films in IMDb’s history.
God’s Not Dead 3 didn’t just do poorly as far as movies go, it did poorly as far as God’s Not Dead movies go. They can’t blame this one on some anti-Christian bias since they made the movie and atheists were never the target audience.
Keep in mind that, with few exceptions, these films make less money every subsequent weekend. So this one may have already hit its peak. And it’s not like the reviews will inspire people to see it based on word of mouth. Here’s a sampling of what critics have said:
It features all of the familiar elements from the two previous films: a persecution-complex, an ‘us vs. them’ attitude, and visions of the brave faithful going up against a hostile secular society. [Link]
A Light In Darkness isn’t as offensive as the first film… but it’s not far behind, an emblematic film for the foul moment. [Link]
These movies are fundamentalist propaganda aimed at people who are convinced their religion is under attack in this country just because it doesn’t exempt them from the Constitution. [Link]
God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness isn’t just the conclusion of the most successful film trilogy made for the evangelical market, it’s the first time a Facebook argument has metastasized into a movie. [Link]
Yeesh. No wonder the film has a 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Here’s the silver lining: Unlike the previous films, this one didn’t end in a cliffhanger. Let’s hope that means they’re finally putting this franchise to rest, never to resurrect again.