Christian movie revenue shocks Hollywood, blows past estimates — here’s why you need to see it


Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

NEW MOVIE ROCKS BOX OFFICE WITH CHRISTIAN MESSAGE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, so often on this podcast, we have to talk about situations that are in the news that aren’t overly pleasant or exciting and sometimes they can be downright depressing.

Today, I want to talk about something that, in fact, your church, Briarwood, has been involved in. It’s an outreach event but it’s also an entertainment event. It’s the new movie that’s just out, entitled “I Can Only Imagine.” It’s a faith-based film from Roadside Attractions. Friends who have been on this program before, directors Andrew and John Erwin, are the directors.

It surprised a lot of people this past weekend, Harry, as Variety reports “I Can Only Imagine” hauled in $17.1 million at 1,600 movie theaters across North America. The estimates put it originally at the $2 million to $8 million range, so it has exceeded everyone’s expectations.
FILMMAKERS BRING CHRISTIANITY TO THE THEATERS

HARRY REEDER: That’s been a real answer to prayer as we prayed for the Lord to bless the use of this. We do enjoy the Erwin brothers and have a great relationship with them with many, many conversations about “Christian world and life view” entertainment and their abilities and insights are so encouraging — what they’ve done.

If you’ve never seen the movie “Woodlawn” that they did, you need to do that. They’ve put out about three or four excellent movies. They came to us with this one and we began to talk about it. I immediately brought our staff to see it because I felt this would be a great outreach. It’s not a sermon put to a film; it is a story that brings the truth of the Gospel but told in terms of story form, which they did really, really well.

Three things about it when you go:

— Expect to enjoy it

— Take your spouse

— Be sure and bring a handkerchief.

But, by the way, I would encourage you not only to take your spouse, but do what we did where we reserved some venues for the showing of it, made the tickets available at a lower cost to our people if they would bring someone whom they were sharing the Gospel with, and then determined to afterward’s have an ice cream or have a cup of coffee and talk about what you have heard.

MOVIE TELLS STORY OF REPENTANCE AND CONVERSION

In a sense, I can sum it up this way: There is the very famous song that was triple platinum, “I Can Only Imagine.” It did all the crossover. Bart Miller was the writer and singer of the song. The movie tells the story behind the song, which is a story of — if I can put it in his words: “How did the man I hated the most become the man I wanted to be most like?”

And it was the conversion of his father and what God did in the life of his father and how that set him free in the things that he had dealt with his whole life under the abusive relationship with his dad.

Dennis Quaid, the actor of the father, turns in a masterful performance. By the way, you also get a look at Cloris Leachman. She’s still acting and, in fact, not to give away too much, it’s her comment that becomes a stimulation to the song that Bart Miller writes.

It’s just an amazing story. You’ve got to go see it, but please make use of it. Go enjoy it as a date night and then go take two or three people after you’ve seen it and prepare yourself to go back to see it.

STUNNING NUMBERS AS IT BEATS OUT HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTERS

Now, what’s interesting, Tom, it almost knocked off three other movies.

TOM LAMPRECHT: Yeah, in fact, Harry, it came in third place. “Black Panther” and “Tomb Raider” did a little bit better than “I Can Only Imagine,” but beat out the new Disney film, “A Wrinkle in Time.”

DR. REEDER: It beat out a number — a number — of films that Hollywood was utterly committed to. And they had pretty well dismissed this and here it is in a fraction of theaters — those other theaters were well over the 2,000 mark that they were available in — but, in 1,600 theater openings, it was able to do this well.

MAKING THE MOVIE AFFECTED FAITH OF THE ACTORS AND AUDIENCE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, faithit.com has reported that, apparently, being a part of this movie has rekindled in Dennis Quaid a desire to have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, after this production was over, he went back and finished writing a song dedicated to his mom, which he started more than 25 years ago entitled, “On My Way to Heaven.”

DR. REEDER: If you go Google all that, you’ll find a link you can hear about his new song that he wrote. He sent it off to his brother, fellow actor Randy Quaid. Both had made a profession of faith earlier in life and he’d been on a search. And then he said the movie has rekindled the effects of that search, which is all about Jesus.

And, of course, that’s what I pray for, for not only this actor who portrayed the part of Bart’s father who was converted by the wonderful work of God’s grace in his life. Playing the part, Dennis Quaid has acknowledged his own relationship with Christ. The famous director, Sharon Stone — now, this isn’t the actress, but the famous Hollywood director, Sharon Stone — went to see it with her son and she acknowledged that when the movie was over, nobody moved. Everyone just sat there. In fact, you could hear the sobs and you could just sense the emotional impact of the moment.

However, when she did get up to leave with her son, a lady with tears running down her eyes said, “Do you know Jesus?” and this director of Hollywood said, “Yes, I do.” And then she said, “I think I’ve got to go and get a Bart Miller fix with Jesus,” and she said, “Well, let’s talk about it.” And so, they sat down and talked about it and, afterwards, she said the lady said, “God brought me here to hear this today and now we get to go home together.”

FILM OFFERS CHANCE TO “IMAGINE” OUR FUTURE IN HEAVEN

What an extraordinary statement and that’s, by the way, a good way that this can be used: Use the title, “I Can Only Imagine,” and say, “You know, you don’t have to imagine. You can actually know.” We don’t know everything that’s going to happen in the new heavens and the new earth, but we do know how to get there. You don’t have to imagine how to get there — in fact, one of the reasons the Bible was written was so that you can know how to get to Heaven and you can know what actually makes Heaven glorious.

Tom, one of the verses in the Bible explicitly said that this is a purpose of the writing of the Bible, 1 John 5:13. “These things have I written that you might know that you have eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.”

We also know what makes Heaven glorious. Jesus said this, “I go to prepare a place for you so that, where I am, there you may be also.” Oh, the glories of what makes Heaven glorious is we’ll be with the Savior, Who came from Heaven to go to a cross to save us from our sins. And, if you’ll come to Him by faith and repentance and receive the gift of eternal life, turning from your sins, then you can not only imagine, you can know for certain that you’re headed to Heaven and then we can begin to imagine what will that be like to be with Jesus and with each other for all eternity, not only without sin, but without even the ability to sin?

LOOK FOR AND SUPPORT QUALITY FILMS THAT EVANGELIZE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, as we close out, let me remind our listeners that if they would like more information on quality films that they can take friends and family to, we would recommend movieguide.org.

DR. REEDER: World Magazine does reviews of films, as well. In fact, World Magazine — as most of our listeners will recognize because we quote from it — it’s a magazine devoted to looking at culture from a Christian world and life view.

It’s so interesting how Hollywood looks at this and they can’t understand how the Neanderthal public could walk away from all these other films that they put out and move to this film that they thought was going to have a $2 million showing and they just can’t understand it. Tom, this is why we do this program: They can’t understand it because of their presuppositions.

TIME TO SHOW HOLLYWOOD AND THE WORLD WHY WE HAVE FAITH

They can’t understand it because of their faith-driven world and life view. In their world and life view, there is no redemption. In their world and life view, there’s nothing to repent of. In their world and life view, there’s “all about me,” instead of finding out that it’s all about the glory of God and a God that’s so glorious that He provides a way for us to be right with Him and that, when you get right with Him through Jesus Christ, then reconciliation with others becomes a glorious consequential blessing and they just cannot sense that. They just are absolutely convinced there has to be a material, a natural explanation.

No, here is the explanation: the reason that there’s such brokenness in this world is sin. The answer to sin is Jesus and, when you come to Jesus Christ, you not only get right with God, God comes right within your life. And when he gets right within your life, you start getting right with everyone around you, just as this wonderful story depicts.

I can’t wait for you to see it and I can’t wait for you to enjoy it. And I can’t wait for more Christians to get involved in this industry of storytelling through the performing arts and I can’t wait for you to use this as a platform to bring other people so that they can say, “I can only imagine what the new heavens and the new earth looks like but I don’t have to imagine about how to get there. I can know for certain. Here’s what Jesus says, ‘Truly, truly, he who believes in me has eternal life.’”

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country. Her work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

10 hours ago

UA System chancellor featured at White House Summit on Safely Reopening America’s Schools

University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis “Fess” St. John IV continues to be one of America’s foremost leaders on safely and responsibly getting the nation’s students back in classrooms this upcoming academic year.

As reported previously by Yellowhammer News, St. John is part of an exclusive national group of education leaders who have consulted with Vice President Mike Pence, leader of the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, and other key administration officials on an all-of-America approach to respond to COVID-19 and drive a phased national economic revival.

St. John’s status was elevated even further this week, as he was chosen to represent all of the nation’s public four-year university systems and flagships at the administration’s Summit on Safely Reopening America’s Schools.

Held at the White House on Tuesday, the summit focused on “reopening America’s schools in safe ways that respect the holistic health and learning needs of America’s students,” an email from the administration said.

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The summit was live-streamed, featuring expert insight and best practices from state, health and education officials from across the country.

Trump administration officials such as White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Education Secretary DeVos participated in the summit, which included panel discussions on “the ABCs of reopening schools safely and implementing safe school reopenings.”

The summit concluded with a roundtable discussion with President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump, VP Pence, Second Lady Karen Pence and top stakeholders from K-12 and higher education institutions, including St. John.

The UA System is comprised of the University of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), UAB Health System and the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).

St. John delivered a statement approximately three minutes in length during the roundtable.

He highlighted the four pillars of the UA System’s return-to-campus plan: testing, tracking, tracing, and treatment. St. John also thanked the president and the administration for their support of federal COVID-19 relief programs made available to higher education and health care institutions nationwide.

“Our students are yearning to come back to campus,” St. John noted. “[The pandemic] has reaffirmed the value of on-campus instruction at our institutions of higher learning.”

The chancellor explained that expert medical input and research went into the system’s return plan, emphasizing that the board of trustees has already committed to in-person instruction being available at all three campuses to begin the fall semester. The goal of this plan, as the system previously announced, is for its three campuses to be the safest universities in America when on-campus instruction resumes.

On Tuesday, St. John advised that “keeping” campuses open after reopening them will be “the hardest part.”

“I want to thank you and the vice president for the assistance that we’ve received through these federal programs,” he told Trump. “Without those, it would have been difficult for our medical center to continue [and] for our campuses to make it through these difficult times.”

The chancellor further noted these federal programs afforded them the ability to test every single student for COVID-19 before they return to campus.

“We promise to do our best to provide this essential service to our students and our citizens, and we greatly appreciate the assistance you’ve given us,” St. John concluded.

Trump then responded to the chancellor.

“Thank you very much,” the president said. “It’s a great place, a great state. And you’re right about one thing [especially], there’s nothing like a campus.”

Trump continued to extol the benefits of utilizing traditional in-person instruction versus solely remote instruction.

“That’s great, great statement actually,” Trump concluded to St. John.

Watch:

At a different point during the roundtable, the topic of college football also came up. Trump again turned to St. John for his input.

The president asked if the Crimson Tide will be playing football this year.

“Mr. President, that’s not the first time we’ve heard that question, I can promise you,” St. John quipped, drawing a round of laughter from the room.

“We are planning to play the season at the University of Alabama,” he added, with the president interjecting, “Good.”

St. John then continued to acknowledge “great difficulties and complexities” involved with playing the season.

“[W]e are hoping for [the season to be played],” he said. “It’s important to a lot of people, but we’re doing our best on that one, too.”

Trump responded, “Say hello to the coach, great coach.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

Byrne: Our common defense

Last week, the House Armed Services Committee, which I’m proud to be a member of, passed and sent to the full House the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. This is the 60th year in a row that we have passed this act out of Committee, and since we passed it unanimously, we are optimistic it will pass the full House later this month. This year’s version is named after a longtime member of the Committee and former Chairman, Mac Thornberry of Texas. Mac led the charge to increase defense funding when President Trump took over. He is also a personal friend of mine and a true friend to the people of Southwest Alabama.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution empowers Congress to “provide for the common defense … of the United States,” “declare war,” “raise and support armies,” and “provide and maintain a Navy.” It’s our most important power, and the hard work of exercising that power is carried out by our Committee. We pass only one bill each year, but in my judgment, it, along with the bills appropriating money for operating the government, comprise the biggest legislative job of Congress each year.

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The NDAA authorizes the defense of the country and the operations of the Department of Defense and the respective service branches. It’s one of the few bills that enjoys broad bipartisan support year after year because our Committee’s members are committed to bipartisan support for the men and women who wear the uniform and defend the nation. We hold numerous hearings, classified and unclassified, before the bill is written. Our subcommittees do the same for their respective parts of the bill. And we really legislate, that is we work through differences and address the nitty gritty details with the seriousness they deserve. The bill is hundreds of pages long and takes an enormous amount of work.

This is my seventh and last year to participate in the process and I am proud of the work the Committee has done even though there are some parts I personally would have done differently. For example, I don’t agree with the topline spending we authorized because I think we have shortchanged some important defense endeavors like shipbuilding. But, I understand that the number was negotiated last year by President Trump and Congressional leadership as part of a two-year spending plan. Our Committee had no choice but to honor that agreement, but I know it’s too low.

We also had a protracted debate on military bases named after former Confederate generals. We Republicans backed an amendment to require the service secretaries responsible for those bases to review the use of those names going forward but did not want to dictate to them what their decision should be. The Democrats on the Committee wanted to require them to change the names but didn’t dictate what the new names would be. I couldn’t support the Democrats on this point because I don’t like usurping the service secretaries’ authority on operational details and I also wanted stronger input from the local communities where the bases are located. As they form the majority on the Committee, the Democrats’ version prevailed.

We also had a long discussion regarding the Insurrection Act. Passed in 1807, and amended twice, in 1861 and 1871, the Insurrection Act empowers a president to use active and national guard personnel under very exceptional circumstances, such as an armed uprising. It was last used in 1992 to quell riots in Los Angeles. President Trump talked about using the Insurrection Act when the protests around the country turned violent in late May and June, and that set off the national news media and the Democrats who wanted to limit his authority to do so. As it turned out, President Trump did not invoke the law at all, but that didn’t stop the Democrats from offering an amendment that would have substantially limited a president’s authority. I took the lead for the Republicans on the Committee as we didn’t want to limit that authority any more than it is already limited by the Posse Comitatus Act. Fortunately, we won the debate, and the amendment to limit a president’s authority was defeated.

Most importantly for our area, the Committee added an Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship at my request and with the blessing of the Navy. The EPF is an aluminum-hulled catamaran capable of transporting 600 short tons of cargo 1200 nautical miles at an average speed of 35 knots in Sea State 3. It has a roll on/roll off capability for things like the Abrams Main Battle Tank, and a helicopter flight deck. Its shallow draft dramatically expands the ports and waterways it can operate in. It’s made at Austal USA in Mobile, and I’m very proud of the work the great shipbuilders there do. I predict you will be hearing more about varied uses for the EPF in the future.

The American people deserve the peace of mind a strong national defense brings. The men and women who wear our uniform and provide that defense deserve the Congressional authority to carry out their important jobs. I have not hesitated to be critical of Congress when we have all too often failed to do our job in the past year and a half. But, this time we did our job and passed a bill out of Committee which, while not perfect, fulfills Congress’s responsibility to provide for the common defense of our country.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.

11 hours ago

Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian undergoes successful heart surgery

Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian underwent a “successful” heart procedure in recent days, according to a statement released by the University of Alabama Athletics Department on Tuesday afternoon.

The statement outlined that Bama’s football coaching staff participates in an annual executive physical.

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“During Coach Sarkisian’s physical last week, it was determined that he needed a procedure to correct a congenital cardiovascular anomaly before it became an issue,” the statement explained. “Coach Sarkisian underwent a successful procedure this past Thursday (July 2) in Birmingham. He is back home in Tuscaloosa and is expected to make a full recovery.”

Sarkisian, 46, was hired as the Tide’s offensive coordinator in January 2019, following a stint with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. Before that, his coaching experience included serving as an offensive analyst for Alabama during the 2016 season, culminating in Sarkisian being interim offensive coordinator in the National Championship game against Clemson. He was previously the head coach at the University of Washington and the University of Southern California (USC).

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Battle officially qualifies for reelection as Huntsville mayor

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle officially filed for reelection on Tuesday, just five minutes after qualifying opened.

First elected in 2008, Battle is seeking his fourth term as mayor of Alabama’s fastest-growing big city.

The Huntsville mayoral election will be held on August 25.

Candidates do not run as a member of any political party; though Battle is known across the state as a Republican after seeking that party’s nomination during the 2018 gubernatorial election.

In an email to supporters, Battle said that in the last 12 years, “Huntsville has grown into the shining star of Alabama. Our teamwork with Huntsville’s city council and our partners across Madison County and North Alabama has resulted in nearly 30,000 jobs, more efficient infrastructure, excellent quality of life amenities, and fiscal responsibility.”

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Battle was joined for the signing of the official papers by his wife, Eula, a former teacher who runs a lauded charity called Free2Teach that gives classroom supplies to public school teachers so they do not have to pay out of their own pocket.

“We are living in unprecedented times. There is no playbook for the current crisis. But because of solid leadership, we will move forward together,” Battle said with regards to his case for reelection.

“I am running for reelection because proven leadership is important in times like these,” he added.

The mayor is expected by most observers to receive only token opposition; he won his two most recent municipal campaigns with 80% of the vote.

According to census estimates, Huntsville’s population grew from around 180,000 in 2010 to around 200,000 in 2020. The Rocket City became the state’s second-largest in that time period and is expected to pass Birmingham before the year 2025.

The mayor often says he is very proud of his city’s growth, but is quick to also point out the infrastructure improvements he has championed to keep the city’s average commute time under 20 minutes.

Battle counts among his successes the recruitment of tens of thousands of jobs to the area, including the massive Mazda-Toyota manufacturing plant currently under construction in the westernmost portion of the city.

“It has taken a lot of work to get to this point and there is still much to be done,” Battle continued in his remarks on Tuesday.

“Let’s continue to improve Huntsville. I’m ready to keep working for you,” he concluded.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

12 hours ago

Either put the mask on for America, or donate to my GoFundMe and we’ll test the constitutionality of these mandatory mask rules

I oppose mandatory mask orders and ordinances, but there is no question that we are going to see more of them.

They can’t be enforced in any real way, but they will lead to more people masking up.

They will work.

Are they illegal? No. Bear with me here.

People will gripe, but most will begrudgingly mask up.

People should begrudgingly mask up on their own, whether it be for our nation’s health, for the economy to recover, for President Donald Trump’s reelection, so we don’t get U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and so the next Supreme Court justice is more like Brett Kavanaugh and less like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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Those are the stakes.

The latest order in Alabama comes from the health department of Madison County.

But they can’t do that! They did. If you don’t like it, keep reading.

This will not be the last order in the state. Governor Kay Ivey will probably get in on the action at some point, and many will be infuriated by it.

Much of the response to almost any order by the government in this regard is being met with two responses: “Yay! Government!” or, “How dare they? This is a violation of my rights.”

Both responses are wrong.

It is odd to ask the government to implement these rules that will be almost impossible to enforce. The enforcement tasks retail employees with being forced to ask customers to mask up or leave.

And, imagine if the government did send in the police to enforce these rules. These same people think cops are killing African-Americans for sport.

So, what are these cops to do when someone refuses and becomes belligerent? Arrest them? Use force?

One of the hot takes right now is that people shouldn’t call the cops on black people at all because it could be a death sentence.

Should the stores call the police on people who refuse? Because 80-year-old Mabel greeting customers at Walmart isn’t going to stop a rampaging herd of women who won’t mask up.

We will not see that.

The correct answer is the same answer we have had for months. More people should mask up on their own, and those who oppose it should stop and think about what they are doing by running their mouths online.

The more you go off about how your freedoms are under assault, the more restrictions we are seeing. It seems counter-productive.

If you want a more normal society, put on a stupid mask.

Even Donald Trump agrees.

But if you really believe this is an affront to your very freedoms, do something about it.

I will even provide you the venue to do so.

Let’s fight one of these ordinances and get it knocked down.

Donate to my GoFundMe campaign that will help me fund a lawsuit against the tyrannical government of Madison County. I will hire lawyers to fight this battle in court and if we win, the orders shall crumble before our feet as we ride to freedom mask-less.

The Madison County Health Department has taken a step many people have informed me is unconstitutional, they are mandating that citizens wear masks in public.

If this is so unacceptable, let’s put our money where our mouth is and hire a legal team to take down this tyrannical local government.

Donate now and I will hire attorneys and fight this fight for you.

Or, you can comment on social media and tell everyone how in 1930 they found masks don’t stop the flu or how the government said masks were not needed in February.

This stuff is foolish and gets us nowhere. Recent studies show that face coverings do not stop anything 100%, but it is better than nothing.

I have already explained that your social media griping has not worked, so try something else.

https://business.facebook.com/TheDaleJackson/posts/10157590173486270

But understand this: there will be no “herd immunity,” there will be no “let it burn through the population,” and we will not “just learn to live with it.”

If you push those narratives, you have lost embarrassingly.

The battle is over. Your “no mask” position is a fringe position.

Keep this up and it will impact the 2020 presidential election.

The worst this coronavirus pandemic is, the less-likely Trump wins the election.

He knows it, they know it.

You can incorrectly believe the data is fake. You can share obvious fake stories about your neighbor’s friend’s cousin’s gardener who waited in line for a test but never got one and how they got positive results if you need to (yes, I read this all over the internet last week and heard this on my radio show today).

Or you can help us take whatever precautions we can that will help us get back to normal, get the economy going again and work to “Keep America Great.”

You cannot do both.

The only path to normal at this point is that we stop the numbers from going up. We need to do what we can to make that happen.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.