• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


    Friday, December 22, 2006

    Nativity News vol.18

    This could well be the last piece of 'Nativity News' for a while (although I will be interested to see how it performs over Christmas). Firstly, the film has now opened pretty much worldwide, and has had its second and third weekends on general release in the States. The news in terms of Box Office income is not good. Off the back of a fairly bad opening first weekend, it came in 8th for its second weekend, taking just $5.7 million (in the US) to bring it's total up to $15.9 million. Then this last weekend it took just $4.7 million. So it's total gross to date is $25.6 million with an added $6.1 million from worldwide sales(Box Office Mojo). This is still less than it's initial budget (given as $35 million, although some reports think it may be much higher once marketing and publicity are taken into account). I'm still hoping that word spreads and as Christmas draws near people will see it in greater numbers. The worry at this stage is that theatres will start dumping it before Christmas comes. Perhaps nostalgia and/or sentimental Christmas spirit will prevail. Whilst there are no major films still to be released before Christmas (Charlotte's Web and Rocky Balboa are small fry compared to previous years' offerings such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy Harry Potter and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), it's poor performance thus far might signal an untimely demise.

    If so, who should take the blame? Mike Rich, for writing a screenplay that lacks the controversy to create a media storm? New Line for going after those Passion dollars? Grace Hill Media, and the other publicity organisations for assuming that they could pull off the same stunts that worked for The Passion and get away with it? No doubt some Christian movie commentators will blame anti-Christian bias in the media, but at the end of the day it's the churches that have failed to come out in support so far. Phil Cooke summed it up nicely.
    I don't understand this at all. Christians complain that Hollywood isn't making good family films anymore - and we REALLY complain that they don't make films with Christian content, but when they do, we don't show up.
    As a side note we organised a screening of the film as a Christmas Event at our church. Our previous plans had to be cancelled at short notice, and our church is young and fairly media savvy, so we decided to go for it, and the event went very well. Lots of people turned up, and most that I've spoken to thought the film was good (most rated it more higly than I did). The problem though is typified by the fact that most of them hadn't heard of it until we told them about it, and few churches seem to be getting behind it in a similar way. I'm not saying that every church should do what we did - far from it - but it seems strange to me that so many churches embraced Gibson's gore-fest, but have ignored this one. Something, somewhere, doesn't seem right about that.

    Anyway, I've got a few more reviews to post. Having posted reviews from some of the more major media outlets last week, I'm going to look at more of the reviewers that I find interesting, so there are a few more biblical scholars here this time as well as a couple of other notables.

    First up there's Jeffrey Overstreet. Jeffrey was the person I learnt about this movie from, and his enthusiasm for Catherine Hardwicke's appointment stoked my own. He'd already posted his interview with Mike Rich, but whilst he found that "few (writers) have been as eloquent as Rich " he did think much of his movie. I think I agree with most of the problems Jeffrey finds in the film, but I don't think they bothered me as much as they did him, and I think I was more impressed by the positives. I'm pleased though that he's dared to question the quality of a film that is "faithful to scripture".

    A more positive review come from Nativity Story blogger Queen Spoo. Her blog has been an invaluable source of information over the last year, and it's nice to read a review by someone who knows her subject so well. She gives it a B+ and makes a couple of interesting observations such as linking the double quotation of 1 Kings 19:11-12 to the change in the wind that occurs at the Annunciation.

    Elsewhere biblical scholars Ben Witherington III and Scott McKnight have posted their reviews. McKnight's opening seems very positive, but then he seems to get somewhat distracted by the absence of the Magnificat. Witherington goes a step further and suggests the film will become a classic. He mentions one of the things I appreciated about the film, but haven't had time to comment on yet - the portrayal of Joseph as a teknis (craftsmen), rather than more specifically a carpenter. Whilst I'm on that aspect of the film, I liked how the film portrayed Joseph as being more affluent than Mary's family, and how that influenced her family's decision to marry her off for a much needed dowry. This harsh reality seems far removed from our society which is so affluent it is unthinkable of marrying for the money and not for love (apart from one or two famous names).

    Then we also have Mark Goodacre's review which has evolved from his few initial thoughts into its present format. He found a few historical anachronisms, and hated the angelic appearances, but was otherwise pretty impressed.

    No word yet from Tyler Williams, if he does post a review, I'll probably add it on here rather than start a new post.

    You can read all my posts on this film from my Nativity Story Central Page.

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    • At 3:01 am, January 06, 2007, Blogger Mark Goodacre said…

      Thanks for this post, Matt, and for referring to my review. My fuller, more "official" review is now available on the SBL Forum, at http://www.sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleId=616.

    • At 9:33 am, January 12, 2007, Blogger Matt Page said…

      Whoops - sorry Mark. I actually delayed making this post until your article was up and then forgot to change the link!



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