One of the summer’s most expensive blockbusters may hit the box office with more of a whimper than a bang in the coming weeks.
The remake of the biblical epic “Ben-Hur” cost more than $100 million to make and early box office projections peg its opening weekend gross at less than $15 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
But a big budget isn’t all this latest coming of “Ben-Hur” has to live up to. The epic tale of a prince turned slave has some mighty large shoes to fill. The 1959 version of “Ben-Hur,” starring Charlton Heston as protagonist Judah Ben-Hur, is a favorite of both movie buffs and film critics. It also contains one of the most recognizable movie scenes of all time—the chariot race. That version of the film cost a record-breaking $16 million to produce 57 years ago. But it ended up paying off in spades when it became the highest-grossing film of 1959. Not only that, the film also brought in 11 Oscars including best actor, best director and best picture.
Some fans of the original have already blasted the new version on Twitter, claiming it will be impossible to live up to the classic.
I feel violated and angry after seeing the preview for the remake of Ben Hur. Show the original in IMAX. I'll go see it.— Rod McDowell (@Rod_McDowell) July 30, 2016
Just screaming, "WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS?" any time I see a trailer for "Ben-Hur"— Lauren Duca (@laurenduca) August 8, 2016
On the flip side, the new film also has an eclectic collection of celebrity support on social media, from the supermodel Cindy Crawford to Christian football star Tim Tebow to NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick.
But despite weak projections, there’s one contingent that could save the biblical drama — folks who love the bible.
A big push with a Christian audience, one that has been largely ignored at the movies this summer due to domination by raunchy or violent flicks like “Suicide Squad,” “Jason Bourne” and the comedy “Bad Moms,” could spell salvation for the new “Ben-Hur.”
The film’s husband and wife executive producers, Mark Burnett, of “Survivor” and Roma Downey of “Touched by an Angel,” are no strangers to productions that appeal to a faith-based audience. They were responsible for the 2014 movie “Son of God,” and the televised miniseries, “The Bible.”
And the studio knows that this is a film they can market hard to a faith-based audience.
To that end, Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church is featured in a short video on one of the film’s official websites. He’s featured praising his favorite scene of the movie, a depiction of Jesus saving a leper from being murdered by an angry mob.
“Jesus in this scene takes on the defense of the most defenseless person in society….Jesus shows compassion instead of revulsion,” Warren told FOX411.
Last month, Warren, Burnett and Downey also took part in a free online simulcast to Warren’s followers in which the trip discussed the film.
Providing an early screening to the Salvation Army was another smart move by the Paramount marketing and publicity team. The nonprofit praised the new film in a tweet to their 48,000 followers, saying, “The Salvation Army screened ‘Ben-Hur,’ and it's amazing! Be sure to see it on Aug. 19!”
The faith-based website Patheos has also praised the movie as “a great film choice for believers to finish out the summer.”
"This is a film that will resonate with a church-going audience. The Movieguide team had seen it many times over the course of production, and it has gotten better along the way," according to Dr. Ted Baehr, the Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission and publisher of the family-friendly guide to movies, Movieguide.
But Baehr told FOX411 he isn't sure if the studio has done enough in terms of outreach to the sizable church-going audience.
"We should be seeing a movie track with about 90 percent awareness with this audience before it opens. I don't know if it is there," Baehr said.
Executives with Paramount did not return a call for comment for this story.
“Ben Hur” hits theaters on Aug. 19.