LOS ANGELES – Paramount Studios has poured an estimated $125 million into the production of “Noah,” casting big names like Emma Watson and Russell Crowe, and trusting their baby to Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky. But six weeks ahead of its theatrical release, concern is brewing that the flick may not be popular with Christians at the box office.
Faith Driven Consumer – a movement connecting Christian consumers with companies compatible with a biblical worldview – issued the results of an online survey, first published in Variety, that indicated a whopping 98 percent of faith-driven consumers are “unsatisfied with (the) Bible-themed movie which strays from Biblical message.” The report suggested that “Noah” could thus face “commercial challenges.”
“We gave participants a strong contextual understanding, and many found that the point-of-view the film seems to take is significantly different than what is in the Bible,” Faith Driven Consumer founder Chris Stone told FOX411, adding that his intention was not to tell Hollywood what type of film they should or shouldn’t make. “98 percent indicated this did not meet their needs. This doesn’t mean they’re mad at the film, it just doesn’t appeal to them.”
According to Stone, the information about “Noah” presented to those participating in the survey included press reports about a focus group’s reaction to an early cut of the movie, as well as “Noah” trailers and marketing materials.
Stone said the survey got more than 5,000 responses.
It also got a big response from Paramount.
The studio issued a release staying the survey question did not contain any reference to the film “Noah” and argued that other statistics cast a much rosier picture for the film. According to Paramount, Nielsen’s National Research Group has defined the film as “very religious,” and found that 83 percent of those aware of “Noah” want to see it.
Variety magazine, however, rejected Paramount’s claim that the Faith Driven Consumer survey wasn’t based on “Noah,” and quoted Stone saying as much.
The controversy has led many to question exactly who the film is trying to reach, and if it will bomb without support from Christian moviegoers.
Bob Waliszewski, director of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In ministry, said if the film strays too far from scripture, there could be trouble brewing for Paramount.
“Some Christians will go if only out of curiosity. But whether the Christian community by and large goes has to do with how respectful and how accurate Aronofsky’s film is,” he explained. “First rule of thumb in filmmaking is to at least be respectful, and if this retelling is done in a way that is anti-biblical, Christians won’t relate, and Paramount could have a big money loser on its hands.”
Since early drafts of the script were leaked a couple of years ago, “Noah” has been plagued by suggestions that it portrayed the famous flood as a punishment for man’s disrespect for the nature, as opposed to sins against God. Last year, sources attached to the production told FOX411 that tensions had risen in the editing room, with Paramount wanting to make a more biblically-accurate film, while filmmaker Aronofsky had different ideas.
Others argue that box office returns for the film, which is slated to open March 28, will depend more on the quality of the content rather than the Christian turnout.
“It is commonplace for Hollywood to change stories for dramatic effect or impact,” said Ken Wisnefski, Founder/CEO of internet marketing company WebiMax. “I do know people were less than excited by the trailer that debuted at the Super Bowl and in turn, the fact that the movie may not be all that good would hurt its box office take… not the fact that Christians in mass are avoiding it.”
And Brian Godawa, Hollywood screenwriter and author of the Amazon bestselling Biblical fantasy novel “Noah Primeval” said he wouldn’t count the Christian community out just yet.
“Christians are more open minded than many secularists who refuse to go to movies that they believe are Christian in their message. They can discern the good from the bad and appreciate entertainment,” he added. “The problem comes if the movie is offensive to their ‘sacred story,’ that is, if they feel that the meaning has been turned into an agenda for another worldview or belief system than the Bible.”
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Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay