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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.

7 hours ago

Hoover protest leader calls for nationwide boycott of all stores, restaurants with locations at Riverchase Galleria

Carlos Chaverst, Jr., the president of the Birmingham Justice League and self-proclaimed leader of protesting in Hoover, on Tuesday called for a nationwide boycott of all stores and restaurants with locations at the Riverchase Galleria.

In a press release, Chaverst said, “In addition to protests resuming throughout the City of Hoover, The Justice League is attempting to coordinate efforts with grass roots organizations all over the country to boycott the stores and restaurants that are inside the Riverchase Galleria if their demands for justice and transparency are not answered! Those stores include Bath & Body Works, Belk, Dave & Busters, Express, Gap, GNC, H&M, JC Penney, Macy’s, Old Navy, Sears, Victoria’s Secret, and Von Maur just to name a few.”

He called this “broadening the scope of the boycott,” while adding protests will continue “escalating.”

Chaverst has been the face of protests since a Hoover Police officer shot and killed Emantic “E.J.” Bradford, Jr. on Thanksgiving night at the Galleria.

Chaverst listed the following demands in his Tuesday press release:

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1. We want those individuals who knowingly lied about the events of Thanksgiving night leading to the murder of Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford, Jr. to resign or be terminated immediately!
2. We want Hoover to ask for a Justice Department investigation into its own police department for mistreatment of minorities (citizens AND officers on the police force).
3. We want a “Citizens Review Board” with subpoena power created by the City of Hoover.
4. We want to know the status (paid or unpaid?) of the officer that killed “EJ” Bradford and we want the City of Hoover to keep it’s word of having weekly updates.

To be clear, while Hoover officials apologized for initially misidentifying Bradford as the shooter of an 18-year-old and 12-year-old at the Galleria on the night of his death, there has been no public assertion by the Bradford family or their attorney that officials “knowingly lied.”

It should also be noted that Chaverst has accused the city of not sending out a weekly update this week, hence his last point in demand number four. However, the city and the police department did in fact issue that update as a joint press release on Monday, which was reported by Yellowhammer News and outlets across the state.

The investigation into Bradford’s death and the entirety of the Galleria tragedy is currently entirely out of Hoover’s jurisdiction and control, with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s (ALEA) State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) handling the case.

While Chaverst spearheads the protests themselves and acts as the public face of “the movement,” the Nation of Islam’s Birmingham leader, student minister Tremon Muhammad, is leading the boycott as part of a greater “war.”

In addition to Chaverst’s press release, he also took to Facebook to request that people donate money and items to the protesters, including bandanas, facemasks, first aid kits and “healthy snacks.”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

10 hours ago

Proposed Waters of the United States guidelines praised as good for Alabama farmers, landowners

Federal officials proposed new Waters of the United States (WOTUS) guidelines on Monday to help protect farmers and landowners from intrusive government regulations, per a release from the Alabama Farmers Federation.

In their proposal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers clarified federal authority under the Clean Water Act.

Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell applauded the newly proposed definition, which excludes ditches from regulation unless they contribute flow to a perennial or intermittent stream.

“The proposed rule is good news for Alabama farmers and restores common sense to Clean Water Act enforcement,” Parnell said.

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He continued, “For several years, farmers, businesses and homeowners have lived under the threat of government intrusion and costly penalties due to overaggressive actions of the Obama-era EPA. We appreciate the Trump administration, current EPA administration, Alabama’s congressional delegation and our state attorneys general for standing by farmers and landowners as we’ve fought back against the WOTUS rule.”

Under the proposal, federally regulated areas would include traditional navigable waters, tributaries to those waters, some ditches, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments of jurisdictional waters and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters.

The proposal also details non-waters of the U.S., such as areas that only contain water during or in response to rainfall, many ditches (including most roadside or farm ditches), prior converted cropland, stormwater control features and waste treatment systems.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall also thanked the EPA and Corps for investing time in a common sense rule that will allow farmers to comply with the law while protecting water resources.

“Clean water is our way of life. Preserving our land and protecting our water means healthy places to live, work and play,” Duvall outlined. “We believe this new Clean Water Rule is rooted in common sense. It will protect our nation’s water resources and allow farmers to farm.”

Today’s announcement is the second part in a two-step process to review and revise the definition of WOTUS consistent with President Donald Trump’s February 2017 executive order. The first step was initiating a repeal of the Obama administration rule, which was put in place in 2015 but is only in effect in 22 states because of a barrage of state lawsuits challenging it.

Various courts upheld the challenges and postponed the law from going into effect within the boundaries of a bevy of states, including Alabama.

A 60-day comment period on the second part of the process, proposing the revised rule, is now underway.

The EPA and the Corps will hold an informational webcast January 10 and will then host a listening session on the proposed rule January 23 in Kansas City, Kansas.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Greg Reed: A Medicaid program built around families and communities

The elections of November 6 are over, and now, in Washington and in Montgomery legislators again take up the task of governing. As the leader of Alabama’s 27 Republican state senators, my focus is on working with other lawmakers and Governor Kay Ivey to make state government more efficient and to keep job growth strong.

Reforming the state’s Medicaid program is one of the toughest challenges we face in the coming year. Medicaid, the federally-mandated health insurance program for pregnant women, children, low-income adults, the elderly and the disabled, is by far the largest line item in the state’s General Fund — Medicaid by itself accounts for 37 percent of all non-education state spending and its budget for the current year is $755 million. For context, state prisons consume 23 percent and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (state troopers) uses 2.5 percent of non-education spending.

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The aging of America’s population as the Baby Boomers retire puts enormous stress on government-run health insurance programs like Medicaid. About 10,000 Boomers retire every day, and the U.S. Census Bureau predicts that by 2035, the number of adults aged 65 and older in America will outstrip the number of children under the age of 18. In Alabama, the population of folks aged 65 and older is expected to grow by 25 percent between now and 2025. This coming demographic tidal wave threatens to swamp a number of government programs, including Medicaid.

For the past five years, I have worked with Medicaid Commissioner Stephanie Azar to craft a new health care model that better serves the growing number of senior citizens in Alabama who are in Medicaid’s long-term care. Thankfully, this year Alabama received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in Washington to move ahead with the Integrated Care Network (ICN). This reform will offer senior citizens on Medicaid additional health care choices and is projected to save, over the long run, tens of millions of taxpayer dollars.

Here is how the ICN will work: in October of this year, the state Medicaid agency partnered with an Alabama health care provider that will now serve the medical needs of the 23,000 senior citizens who are receiving Medicaid’s long-term care services, 70 percent of whom are in nursing homes. By partnering with an expert health care provider based in Alabama, Medicaid can offer its long-term patients better care — and thus allow more Medicaid recipients to stay longer in the comfort of their own home.

Medicaid recipients can still opt for a nursing home, and no benefits are changed under this new system. But by partnering with a health care provider that is an expert in managed care, Medicaid can bend the cost curve down, offer improved health care, and give more of Alabama’s senior citizens an opportunity to stay a little longer in their homes and communities.

For my wife and me, one of the greatest privileges in life is spending time with our parents — and as the years have passed, we, like so many Alabama families, have discussed the future and begun to plan for the day when our parents will need additional help.

As a legislator, I think often about how the policies that I vote on will affect the lives of my friends and neighbors. The Integrated Care Network is just getting started, but I am optimistic that this reform will improve the quality of life for many families in Alabama and put Medicaid on a sounder financial footing.

Greg Reed (R-Jasper) is the Alabama Senate Majority Leader and represents Senate District 5, which is comprised of all or parts of Winston, Walker, Tuscaloosa, Jefferson and Fayette counties.

12 hours ago

Sessions makes first speech since resigning as attorney general, still supports Trump’s agenda

MONTGOMERY — Speaking at the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s 146th annual meeting on Tuesday, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered his first public remarks since leaving President Donald Trump’s administration.

Despite his forced resignation and having been on the raw end of several Trump tweets and public comments this year, Sessions graciously made clear that he still supports the work the president is doing, praising the administration’s successes and some ongoing agenda items in a roughly 20-minute speech. He did not directly address speculation that he could run to return to the United States Senate in 2020.

He did, however, add some levity to the situation, with the crowd of approximately 600 enjoying a few trademark Sessions jokes.

“I’ve had a few ups and downs in the last two years,” Sessions remarked while thanking Bishop Lawson and Cheryl Bryan, who were in attendance. “And every now and then, it’s good to know your bishop is praying for you.”

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A couple of minutes later, Sessions spoke on some federal issues of note.

“On the Make America Great Again front, I will cite these words from Friday’s Wall Street Journal: Wage growth matched the highest rate in nearly a decade and unemployment held at its lowest rate in nearly half a century at 3.7 percent. This is the lowest rate since 1969,” Sessions outlined.

He continued, referring to his wife sitting some yards away from him, “That’s when Mary and I married – 1969.”

Sessions then spoke about the benefits of getting people working again across the nation, while saying that the workforce participation rate still needs improvement.

“So, personally, I’m attempting to chill out a bit,” Sessions said, transitioning away from speaking on the economy.

“You can be sure that I don’t follow the tweets as closely as I used to,” he added to great laughter and a smattering of applause.

Sessions added, “Having served in the Department of Justice for almost 15 years plus 20 on the [Senate] Judiciary Committee, I well knew that AG’s frequently face difficult choices and decisions which, almost inevitably, create some controversy. But this very public adventure, I gotta say, exceeded my expectations.”

The former attorney general and United States senator then continued to emphasize that he remains supportive of Trump and their shared agenda.

“I’m proud of President Trump’s policy agenda and to have had a part in it,” Sessions said. “He is driven to succeed and much of his frustration arises from his inability to move the bureaucracy to achieve what he believes oughta be achieved fast enough.”

Perhaps quoting Kanye West for the first time, Sessions commented, “[Trump] has dragon energy. Think that’s a good description of it, really.”

He then talked about his “love” for the Department of Justice, outlining the successes of his tenure in a similar manner to his speech in Hoover this fall.

“I poured my heart into our work and was pleased to be able to advance the president’s policies, which were my policies and good for America,” Sessions explained.

After listing some of the many accomplishments of his time as attorney general for several minutes, Sessions said that the DOJ’s recent work was just one way that “the rule of law” was being affirmed.

“First, and of monumental importance, the president continues to nominate the best group of highly qualified federal judges ever, in my opinion,” Sessions advised. “These judges understand that they adjudicate under the constitution – they’re not above it. And they know they are to be neutral umpires.”

In a timely manner with Tuesday’s announcement that Ben Shapiro will speak at the University of Alabama during the spring, Sessions also touched on his support of free speech on campuses.

“We’ve defended free speech on campus. Goodness gracious, [it’s] hard to believe the attacks on speech on campus,” Sessions said.

After getting into the weeds a little on more ways the DOJ defended the constitution under his watch, Sessions concluded his remarks.

“[W]e have the greatest legal system in the history of the world,” Sessions outlined. “This government, and especially the attorney general, must give his best effort every day to uphold and defend this heritage we have been so blessed to receive.”

“To that end, as God has given me the ability, I have been dedicated. I am satisfied our work has met the highest standards. Thank you for your friendship, your understanding, your support and for allowing me to represent the great people of this fabulous state. I love it. And of the United States. Thank you all and may God bless America and God bless this great state,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

13 hours ago

Ledbetter: Around a ’75 percent’ chance higher gas tax passes

The gas tax may be a foregone conclusion if you listen to the leadership of the Alabama legislature.

Infrastructure needs are undoubtedly a priority heading into the next legislative session; how they get addressed is the battle we will see fought out.

A gas tax of up to 12 cents a gallon has been discussed, but according to Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, the target for a tax increase in Alabama is more likely to be in the six to 10 cent range, which could raise between $180 million and $300 million dollars a year.

While appearing Tuesday on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show,” Ledbetter was optimistic about the chances of the tax passing legislation.

Without any particular promises made, he referred to the need for a “clean bill” that he believes makes the passage easier.

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In spite of that desire, there are pressing needs in every part of the state and constituents will want their needs addressed, but he agreed that every caveat carved out weakens the bill and makes it less likely to pass.

In the interview, Ledbetter signaled a strategy that will be unveiled to convince Alabama voters that a gas tax increase isn’t that bad and surrounding states have higher taxes so we should increase ours as well, arguing it would be a “reasonable” tax.

Ledbetter stated, “You know Georgia did 26 on gas, 29 on diesel with a five dollar lodging fee.”

“We’re not gonna do that,” he added.

Ledbetter then continued to point out Alabama’s higher tax neighbors, “Tennessee put 10 cents on, Louisiana put 18 cents on. I think we’re going to be more reasonable with what we do and we need to do it for the right reasons.”

A strategy for the gas tax is being unveiled before our eyes: using county commissioners to lobby legislators for a higher gas tax and compare Alabama’s taxes to our neighbors.

Will it work? Ledbetter said there is around a 75 percent chance it will.

Listen:

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN