Chris Lange, FISM News
The debut of the feature film “Jesus Revolution” surpassed box office expectations during the first three days of its release over the weekend, raking in $15.5 million.
The film about the sweeping Christian revival of the 1960s and ‘70s had been projected to earn less than half of that amount, according to entertainment news source Collider.com. The film starring Kelsey Grammar and Jonathan Roumie finished third at the box office behind “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “Cocaine Bear.”
Collider credits much of the film’s debut success to the buzz generated by pre-release screenings held at churches and universities in various cities across the U.S.
The film’s co-creator, Jon Erwin, recently told CBN News that he had planned to create the film even prior to making the box office hit “I Can Only Imagine” which was released in 2018.
“This project has taken many twists and turns. It’s the longest I’ve ever worked on a movie,” Erwin told the Christian news media outlet.
“My hope is [that] people enjoy the movie. And we want to make you laugh and cry. But there really is a movement behind this movie.”
FISM previously reported that the film chronicles the hippie Christian revival of the ‘60s and ‘70s that came about during a tumultuous time in the nation’s history. Both decades were marked by political unrest over the Vietnam War, the assassination of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., the sexual revolution, and mass student protests, among other seismic shifts in American culture. It was during this time that today’s Baby Boomers were increasingly drawn to the message of unconditional love found in the Gospel — the antithesis to the death and brutality of the Vietnam War.
Erwin said that he was inspired to create the film after he had acquired two Time Magazine publications from the era: one dated April 8, 1966, titled: “Is God Dead?” and the other, dated June 21, 1971, titled: “The Jesus Revolution.”
Erwin said that he wanted to find out “What happened in between these two magazines … this bleak statement and this psychedelic Jesus.”
“And something was happening so undeniable in American society that Time Magazine had to give it credit with a cover story, as did Life Magazine and Look Magazine,” he continued.
Driven by his curiosity, Erwin reached out to one of the progenitors of the revival, Greg Laurie, Pastor of Harvest Church in Costa Mesa, California, who provided him with a firsthand account of the events that formed and shaped the Jesus Revolution.
“People know me as an older guy, and it is interesting for them to be introduced to us when we were young,” Laurie told CBN on the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of “Jesus Revolution.”
“It’s our story, but it’s like I am watching another story. But it is a story of redemption. And we are sort of representing a generation of young people that were searching,” he continued.
Actor Joel Courtney portrays Laurie in the film, which Erwin co-produced with Brent McCorkle. The cast is rounded out by Jonathan Roumie (“The Chosen”), who portrays hippie street preacher Lonnie Frisbee, and Kelsey Grammar in the role of Chuck Smith, then-pastor of Calvary Chapel. The three men shared little in common when they met beyond the desire to share God’s love with their contemporaries who were hungry for change and ripe for the message of unconditional love found in the Gospel of Christ.
“The culture was in a moment of fraught need,” Courtney said, describing American youth in the 60s and ’70s as being “kind of like lost sheep” who were experiencing an acute need to “reground” themselves.
“And there is no grounding that’s better than the cornerstone of Christ,” Courtney added.
Actor Jonathan Roumie, best known for his portrayal of Jesus in “The Chosen” streaming series, talked about the universal need for Christ and community.
“I think as humans we are hardwired for a couple of things,” Roumie explained. “One of those is community, only second to God, relationship with God and community with each other. And when those two things seem to be compromised in society, the spirit starts to rebel against that and try to figure out how to put that back in its right order. And so you have these revivals. And I think you see it now with what’s going on in Kentucky,” Roumie continued, referring to the student-led worship outpouring at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky that began on Feb. 8 and sparked a nationwide campus revival that, 18 days later, still shows no signs of stopping. More than five decades ago, in 1970, Asbury College played a key role in the Jesus Revolution movement with another student-led revival.
Despite mixed critical reviews, “Jesus Revolution” has garnered a noteworthy 99% audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, an entertainment review aggregate site, and a rare “A+” audience rating on CinemaScore from opening day audiences.
CBN noted that “Erwin is now the only filmmaker to have received four A+ grades since CinemaScore began publicly releasing results in 1986.”
CinemaScore President Harold Mintz called the achievement “unprecedented.”
“Jon Erwin has now achieved four A+ CinemaScores, more than any other filmmaker since we have been compiling data. For a director to achieve that accomplishment once is a rarity. But to hit that mark four times is not only an incredible distinction — it’s unprecedented,” Mintz said. “Congratulations to Jon [Erwin] and Brent McCorkle and the entire team at Kingdom Story Company.”
IMDb (The Internet Movie Database) said that the film’s debut success “has proven that targeting underserved audiences is a lucrative strategy at the box office.”
Those who are interested in seeing “Jesus Revolution” are encouraged to check local theater listings for dates and times.