How Jesus convinced Hollywood to believe
After The Passion of the Christ made more money than anyone dreamed possible -- still the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time in America -- studios frantically tried to corner the faith market by producing movies that enticed churches to buy out theaters. There’s a long history of sword-and-sandal flicks before that, plus occasional apocalyptic movies like A Thief in the Night, and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association made a number of solid films a few decades ago that were distributed directly to churches. But 2004 signaled something new, and producers took notice.
A few small movies succeeded with the "faith audience" after Passion of the Christ: Facing the Giants (2006), Fireproof (2008), and Courageous (2011), one of which starred Kirk Cameron, all indie films from the same church-backed production company. Less-explicitly specialized films, like the Narnia movies, The Blind Side (2009), The Book of Eli (2010), Of Gods and Men (2010), and Soul Surfer (2011), attracted sizable crowds of mostly Evangelical Christians. Soon, publicity firms found ways to market every conceivable film with a vaguely inspirational hook to pastors and parishioners, from The Avengers (look at these superheroes sacrificing themselves for one another, just like Jesus!) to The Monuments Men (look at these soldiers sacrificing themselves for one another, just like Jesus!)