Independent film producers who want to compete with Hollywood and make money are increasingly realizing that low-budget Christian films attract a large audience. I realize that movies audience can be difficult to define sometimes, but a spate of recent films are directed very clearly at Christian fundamentalists. Why do low-budget films that aim at this Christian audience succeed? Here are three reasons.
Reason one: the Christian audience is underserved by Hollywood. Christian fundamentalists in the United States form a large movie audience, but they are routinely neglected by Hollywood producers. When was the last time that Hollywood produced a blockbuster that portrayed Christianity in a positive light? More often, mainstream films disparage religion, and Christianity in particular. In recent years, though, independent filmmakers have realized that they can make money by appealing to Christians. In fact, Christian films like Facing the Giants have successfully competed with Hollywood films in certain areas of the country. Many Christian films are explicitly religious. Others simply portray religion in a way that is normal for faithful Christians; for example, a family might be shown praying before eating their dinner, or someone with a serious problem might be shown going to church in search of answers.
Reason two: paucity of family-appropriate films. For Christian fundamentalists, the problem is not simply that Hollywood does not produce Christian films. Even mainstream films that are neutral on the topic of religion contain material that is offensive to many Christians, or which is inappropriate for children. The Christian movie audience favors clean entertainment, even if that entertainment is low-budget. Many Christian films, in fact, are produced on shoestring budgets. Thus, independent filmmakers can successfully compete with Hollywood for Christian movie dollars.
Reason three: grassroots efforts. Independent films that successfully incorporate Christian values often spread by word of mouth among members of the Christian movie audience. Although many such films are low-budget, they receive free promotion from churches and various Christian groups. They can, therefore, make money without spending a lot on marketing. This fact enables independent filmmakers to compete with Hollywood despite their lack of cash.
The bottom line is that Christian films can attract a significant audience even when they are low-budget. For independent filmmakers, this fact creates a real opportunity to compete with Hollywood. Because Hollywood underserves the Christian audience and fails to produce many family-appropriate films, the Christian movie audience is eager to promote Christian films via grassroots efforts.