BR-filmed, faith-based film does well at box office

“God’s Not Dead,” the Baton Rouge-filmed, faith-based movie featuring cameos by Willie and Korie Robertson from the “Duck Dynasty” reality show cast, earned an unexpectedly strong $9.2 million during in its opening weekend.

Showing on just 780 screens, the independently produced film placed fourth in box office receipts for March 21-23.

Pure Flix Entertainment, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based film studio and distributor, produced “God’s Not Dead” for less than $1 million. The movie expands to more theaters this weekend.

Baton Rouge filmmaker Jarred Coates and Covington-based filmmaker Lisa Arnold co-produced the film. Coates also worked as the film’s unit production manager, and Arnold provided location casting and location scouting for the production.

“It’s amazing,” Coates said of the movie’s $9.2 million opening.

Total expected gross from the film’s entire theatrical run was expected to be $10 million to $15 million, he said.

Shane Harper stars in “God’s Not Dead” as a college freshman and devout Christian whose faith is challenged by a philosophy professor played by Kevin Sorbo. The Robertsons play themselves.

Faith-based films such as “God’s Not Dead,” Coates said, “always have the potential to do well because they target a certain market. Christian people like to go out and see good faith-based films. Families are looking for good family and faith messages.”

“God’s Not Dead” was shot in a quick 20 days in Baton Rouge. About half of its production days were spent at Pennington Biomedical Research Center. Pennington provided the auditorium-style classroom location the college campus-set film needed.

“It’s a low-budget film,” Coates said. “We were shooting all practical locations. We wore many, many hats.”

Coates founded Red Entertainment in 2005. The company previously participated in the films “Finding Normal,” “Christmas Angel” and “Inventing Adam.” Red Entertainment has biopics about African-American football coach Eddie Robinson and New Orleans rhythm-and-blues singer Irma Thomas in development.

The impressive opening for “God’s Not Dead” follows the remarkably strong showing for another religion-based film, “Son of God.” Released Feb. 28 by major studio 20th Century Fox, “Son of God” earned $25.6 million in its opening weekend.

“Noah,” another film from a major studio with a religious theme, opened Friday.