In a recent newsletter, we wondered why The Nativity Storywas off to such a slow start at the box office. We also expressed concern that Christian moviegoers were unwittingly sending Hollywood a message—that professionally, well-made films like Nativity may not be worth the major studios' efforts, while lesser-quality films—like Facing the Giants and One Night With the King—were enough to satisfy a Christian audience. We received a number of e-mails responding to those points …
I agree that The Nativity Story is a higher quality film than Facing the Giants and One Night With the King, but I thought there were different reasons for the comparatively low opening box office of Nativity. I have the impression that Giants and King benefited from the standard Christian networking promotions of films that practically only Christians will rush out to see—hyping up the churches, radio stations, established fan base, etc. Conversely, The Nativity Story seemed to be not promoted at all! It is as if the studio for Nativity neglected to engage the standard Christian networking, taking for granted that Christians would just show up, without direct promotional involvement, while they also acted as if standard secular media advertisements were not needed or would not be effective.
I think Christians are incredibly busy during December—Christmas plays, extra church services, Christmas parties, dance recitals, Christmas teas, lots of charity work. I would love to go see Nativity, but I am going to have to wait because the calendar is just too full.
I believe most of the crowd that this movie hoped to interest were previously engaged celebrating the Nativity through very deeply engrained traditions. After all, the story it presents is the one we celebrate with the greatest gusto in churches all over the world—extra choir practices, Sunday school presentations, church outreach, all needing extra work that first weekend of December. We love this story so much, we were all at church celebrating it!
A young, unmarried pregnant actress playing Mary was enough to turn me off this movie.
It may be that people did not appreciate the other "Christian" movies [Facing the Giants and One Night with the King], which leads to the lackluster desire to see more of them.
The Rev. Dr. Bruce R. Roth
I've only heard about the movie through Christianity Today Movies. Otherwise, I would not have known about it.Other Christians I mentioned it to had not heard of it either. I think there is a serious problem with the advertising for this movie.
I think one factor is the timing. It seems like there are more needy families this year than ever in recent memory, and as much as we enjoy going to movies, our small amount of disposable income can be better spent at this time. Maybe we are not unique.
I can tell you what lessens my interest in Nativity: the news that the actress who portrays Mary has become pregnant by her boyfriend. I am embarrassed to see Nativity and tout it as a fine Christian film, since I know the actress is a fornicator. I suspect I'm not the only one with this opinion.
Our congregation is having play practice every weekend and other activities that are very time-consuming. Even though I have not seen the film, as the pastor I have said something about it each week and plan to go the week of Christmas when I have a little more free time.
I agree that it's disappointing that Nativity isn't doing very well. My wife and I thought it was good—not great, but good. I think the movie that it should be compared to is Narnia, not Facing the Giants. I agree that it's a much better film than the latter, and on a similar quality as the former. But one thing that was vastly different was the publicity, and specifically the marketing to the church marketing. While I heard about Narnia about 12 months out, and got involved about 8 months out (as a regional host, etc.), I didn't even know about Nativity until a leadership conference in October. I immediately signed up to have our church help publicize it, to host a pastors' reception, etc. I contacted the company twice about this, but never even received a response (and they had sent out a request for regional help!). For our church, the combination of a lack of familiarity with the actual project, along with some differences in our own Christmas programming and rehearsals, etc. meant that we didn't buy out the theater like we did for Narnia—but I think we would have, and probably others would have too, with more advance notice, more information/exposure, and a better use of churches.
Dave Johnson, Pastor
Kalamazoo Community Church
I think Nativity will do well in the long run. Since Christmas is on a Monday, our church is not having a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. like it normally does. So we felt that going to see Nativity would be a wonderful thing to do Christmas Eve. Many other families might be doing the same thing. I don't want to be tied to casting my "vote" only on opening weekend. I don't like overcrowded theaters, and I have a life that I fit movies into, not around them.
Susan E. Savignac
I strongly disagree with you about Facing the Giants. My wife and I thought it was very moving and one of the best movies we have seen this year. It dealt with real issues and the answers were in the nature of what many of us have experienced.I would recommend the film to almost anybody.
Copyright © 2006 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.