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


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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.

13 hours ago

Birmingham-Southern College to impose fee on unvaccinated students

Unless students of Birmingham-Southern College are vaccinated against COVID-19, those who attend the private liberal arts school will be forced to pay a $500 fee “to offset continual weekly antigen testing and quarantining.”

In an email sent to students, the college announced its pandemic protocols for those returning to campus for the fall semester. In what appears to be an effort to encourage students to receive the vaccine, BSC told students it will levy a monetary charge against those who are unvaccinated. The school cited the need for funding to be applied toward COVID-related mitigation measures as a reason for the charge.

The email reads in part, “Due to the lack of federal funds for pandemic precautions this term, all students will initially be charged $500 for the fall term to offset continual weekly antigen testing and quarantining. Students who are fully vaccinated prior to the beginning of fall term will receive an immediate $500 rebate.”

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The college announced in the email that it has also set separate move-in dates for vaccinated and unvaccinated students.

The College Republican Federation of Alabama (CRFA) has condemned the move as discriminatory against students who have chosen not to receive the vaccine.

“The College Republican Federation of Alabama condemns this obvious attack on students who are not vaccinated,” says CRFA chairman Clint Reid. “While vaccines are an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 we are still a free society where one should not be held at ransom to the tune of $500 if they do not feel the vaccine is the best course of action for them. We call on Birmingham-Southern College to drop this outrageous fee.”

The college’s email goes on to direct students who have been immunized against the virus to complete a “Vaccination Report Form.” BSC stated that the school’s goal is to achieve an 85% vaccination rate among students, faculty and staff.

Portion of the email sent to BSC students as follows obtained by Yellowhammer News: 

Birmingham-Southern College did not respond to a request for comment. Yellowhammer News has inquired with the Attorney General’s Office regarding the legality of BSC’s guidelines and will provide updates accordingly.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

14 hours ago

Tim James: A house divided against itself cannot stand

Last week the discussion of COVID vaccination burst into the news and ripped the scab right off the wound exposing the divide among Alabamians about whether to vaccinate or not. We all know there can be tense moments among friends and family when the vaccine topic comes up especially when there are differing opinions in the room.

Well, last week the discussion hit a fever pitch on a grand scale and landed on the front pages of the national news outlets. According to news reports, in Alabama, there are about 2.5 to 3 million people that have CHOSEN NOT to take the vaccine out of the state’s population of 5.1 million. Approximately 60% of all Alabamians have made this their personal health choice.

I am writing this letter today to express my distaste for those bent on shaming people in which they disagree on the vaccine issue. They divide Alabamians into two classes: the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. The media’s contempt is in overdrive for anyone that dares to disagree and not blindly follow the government directives. So, they shame by spewing their poison proclaiming the unvaccinated are the problem. Their assertion of “Blame” by extension means the unvaccinated are responsible for the spread of COVID. If you want to blame someone or something, blame the virus and the makers of it. As everybody knows, it was not the bats.

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The problem is not the unvaccinated, but rather those spawning division among the population. It’s the BLAME GAME.

They shake their fingers in the face of millions of Alabama citizens for refusing to take the vaccine and are beside themselves when everyone does not fall in line like sheep. I guess the unvaccinated are the “New Deplorables.”

I’ve listened to their shaming long enough and felt it was time to stand up for millions of Alabamians that have made their decision, over the many months, NOT to take the vaccine. I fall into this category; however, like most families I have family members that have chosen TO take the vaccine. Alabamians know full well what is going on in their communities, local hospitals, nursing homes and churches. They are not ignorant to the medical realities and associated risks. Neither are they reckless or selfish.

Every unvaccinated person has considered whether to take the vaccine for months. They have discussed the matter with others, prayed about it and even may have tolled back and forth on the decision. In the end, their “call” was to not take the vaccine for their own personal reasons. I can’t help but wonder why so many vaccinated people lecture everyone else when they themselves have marginal health risk as they are the vaccinated class.

Has it occurred to them that their shaming is certain to follow children into the classroom in the form of bullying? Do they care about young women in childbearing years who are rightfully cautious about what goes into their bodies? It’s ironic that people that CHOOSE NOT to take the vaccine are labeled dissenters even though they are the majority in Alabama and cross all races and political lines.

Going forward I want to encourage people to take a deep breath and stand back from the situation. COVID, of course can be lethal, but at the same time the odds of fatality are extremely low. This is one of those times when we must not succumb to fear. Fear is the root from which anxiety and worry bud.

Fear is a weapon used to manipulate the public, and the press is its enabler. The Lord speaks to the issue of fear through the Apostle Paul. “For God hath not given a spirit of fear but of power and sound mind” – 2 Timothy 1:7

I also would like to take this opportunity to say something about Governor Ivey’s statement last week concerning unvaccinated Alabamians. She said, “It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down.”

The unvaccinated people represent approximately 60% of the population in our state. The Governor’s comments triggered uncontrollable elation and gaiety from politicians and news anchors at CNN, NBC and others. As one could expect, President Biden and Dr. Fauci were ecstatic at Alabamians being scolded by their Governor over this issue. I believe the Governor’s comments were off-base. I also believe she likely misspoke in the heat of the moment; something any of us could do. As we navigate forward, we need to lower the tone and not take the bait of those whose goal is to sow seeds of division amongst Alabamians.

I have a message for the American press corps concerning their hysterical, fear-based coverage of the pandemic.

It’s a quote from Edward R. Murrow, the great broadcast journalist during the first half of the 20th century.

He effectively warned his fellow journalists what would happen if the free press became compromised. He wrote: “No one can terrorize a whole nation unless we are his accomplices.”

Tim James, the son of former Gov. Fob James, is a Greenville, Alabama businessman. He was a 2010 GOP candidate for governor.

14 hours ago

Regions names Jason Isbell senior vice president of state government affairs and economic development

Regions Bank has tapped one of the state’s foremost experts on banking law and government affairs to serve as senior vice president of state government affairs and economic development.

Jason Isbell comes to the Birmingham-based bank brandishing nearly two decades of legal and government affairs experience in the public and private sectors.

Elizabeth Taylor, head of government affairs and economic development for Regions, highlighted Isbell’s depth of knowledge and relationships throughout the industry.

“Regions Bank has a strong history of working with government leaders and other stakeholder groups on issues impacting our associates, customers and communities,” Taylor said in a statement to Yellowhammer News. “Jason Isbell brings a wealth of knowledge and experience on a variety of financial services matters to this role. His work building relationships and navigating a myriad of legislative issues will serve us well. We look forward to his service advancing economic development opportunities that move our communities forward while also building on the strong relationships we have in the areas Regions serves.”

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Isbell most recently worked with Maynard Cooper & Gale where he represented a wide array of clients, including Regions, as an attorney and lobbyist in the firm’s Government Solutions Group.

Prior to his time at Maynard Cooper, he held the position of vice president for legal and governmental affairs at the Alabama Bankers Association (ABA). Isbell was charged with implementing ABA’s legislative and regulatory agendas at both the state and federal levels. He honed his skills in public policy during his 11 years in state government, first as a fiscal analyst for the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office and then as general counsel to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Isbell is a member of the Faulkner University board of trustees and is a graduate of the school’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law.

Regions Financial Corporation recently reported $748 million in second quarter earnings. The company cited strategic decisions in high-growth areas, such as Florida, Texas and Tennessee, as contributing to those earnings.

Isbell noted the momentum of the bank’s growth and influence throughout its footprint as he prepares for this new endeavor.

“I’m excited to represent an institution with such a rich history and stellar reputation,” he told Yellowhammer News. “Regions Bank is poised to continue making a positive impact on communities in Alabama and beyond. I’m grateful for this opportunity and look forward to being part of the Regions team.”

Isbell is set to officially join the bank in mid-August.

RELATED: Joia M. Johnson appointed to Regions board of directors

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

15 hours ago

State Rep. Wes Allen: Biden administration’s mixed message on COVID shows he doesn’t put Americans first

The Biden administration is issuing warnings to Americans regarding the increasing number of COVID cases across the country. Calls for a return to mask-wearing and social distancing are becoming more frequent from the President and his advisors.

Businesses, large and small, fear the possibility of mandated shutdowns that plagued our nation last year. Parents are wondering if they will be forced to face the inadequacies and challenges of remote schooling again. These are all worries that are being forced upon law-abiding, tax-paying Americans by the Biden administration.

But it goes further. Our northern border with Canada remains closed to non-essential travel for fear of spreading the virus. Biden and his team cited concerns over the Delta variant as the reason for banning travel from 26 nations including most of Europe, South Africa and Brazil.

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This all seems like a concerned President who is trying to save our nation from the death and damage of a pandemic. But a closer look at Biden’s policies proves that his concern is not for Americans and he has little to no desire to stop the spread of COVID from coming across our border.

His policy that allows thousands of illegal immigrants to move freely across our southern border and into our towns, neighborhoods, restaurants and schools without any regard for their immigration status or their COVID test results prove that the Biden administration doesn’t care about America or Americans. Is the health of Americans, the success of our economy and the fate of our schools and health care system of any concern to this President or his advisors?

I think not.

State Rep. Wes Allen is a Republican candidate for Alabama Secretary of State.

15 hours ago

Alabama League of Municipalities launches Economic Development Academy

The Alabama League of Municipalities (ALM) on Thursday announced the creation of its Economic Development Academy, which will partner with local leaders in an educational capacity to offer their assistance regarding business and industry recruitment practices.

Developed in conjunction with the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) and supported by an advisory council of industry leaders, the Academy will engage local leaders and help them further understand their role in the economic development process.

The Academy is specifically designed to educate and engage municipal officials and designated community business leaders on best practices and strategies for successful economic and community development. Additionally, the ALM says the Academy will focus on the role of elected officials regarding evaluating abatements, legal processes and implications, correctly marketing the community, gaging the community’s expectations, workforce development as well as other key aspects of the development process.

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ALM says the Academy is unique from other economic development programs in that it is tailored to municipal officials using a team model. The mayor or another designated elected or administrative official and at least two council members are required to participate from each community to form a team of up to five members.

In promoting the new program, ALM executive director Greg Cochran conveyed the importance of economic development efforts that take place at the local level.

“Our organization is pleased to collaborate with the Alabama Community College System and Neal Wade to launch the ALM Economic Development Academy,” said Cochran. “It is our goal for the Academy to develop intentional programming and identify resources to empower our municipal officials so they can create legacy programs and projects within their cities and towns. Municipalities are the foundation of our state’s economy, and it is the League’s mission to provide our members the necessary tools to build a community where citizens can live, work, play and prosper and where businesses can thrive.”

The Academy will take place over a full year and consists of an orientation; four one-day sessions that include community assignments; and a special graduation ceremony. To graduate, participants must conduct an economic vitality survey of their communities; complete a community assessment/project; and attend all sessions.

At the conclusion of the year-long program, graduates will be presented a certificate of municipal economic development from the League and ACCS.

Neal Wade, former head of the Alabama Development Office as well as a consultant for Alabama Power, The St. Joe Company and the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, has been tapped to develop the Academy’s curriculum and conduct the classes.

“The objective is for Alabama communities to be the best they can be and competitive for growth and new revenue,” Wade said. “Setting realistic expectations for each community will be foremost.”

In addition to working with Wade, the League has developed a partnership with ACCS to provide classroom space and workforce development resources for Academy participants. The four mandatory sessions for selected municipalities will be conducted at ACCS campuses throughout the state based on each region.

Chancellor Jimmy Baker praised the partnership and expressed his optimism on the potential growth opportunities he believes can stem from the Academy.

“At Alabama’s community colleges, everything we do is workforce development – from education and training to providing wraparound services and hosting community events,” Baker said. “We are honored to work alongside the Alabama League of Municipalities to launch the Economic Development Academy and host its participants at our campuses across the state. Education is so often the linchpin to positive change and the resources and training this effort will provide will have a positive impact on Alabama for years to come.”

An Academy Advisory Council has been developed to add input, assist with training and provide additional resources to the process. The Council consists of state and federal government agencies, ACCS presidents, utility partners, League strategic partners, local economic developers and statewide business associations.

Academy applications will be accepted via the League’s website July 29 – August 31. Applicants will be thoroughly evaluated and candidates chosen by mid-September. There is a community fee to participate.

Those interested in attending the Academy may apply via online application at almonline.org.

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL