The upcoming series, recently pulled from the fall schedule, provides the network with an epic opportunity not to repeat epic mistakes
“Somewhere near Hollywood, there is an island,” a legendary producer told us over a hearty, organic meal at The Farm on West Olympic, “and on this magical island are special people who can create what they want regardless of the financial implications because they are so-and-so. Those days are coming to a close, because studios have less and less margin for financial shortfalls.”
OK, so we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
This post was supposed to deepen your introduction to the Faith Driven Consumer™ audience (aka The Untapped Audience). But ABC’s temporary hiatus for Of Kings and Prophets is just so relevant and such a perfect example that is has to be addressed—right now.
(Keep this in the back of your mind as you read further: Faith Driven Consumers are the must-win market segment behind any successful faith-themed project, and statistically much more likely to go out of their way to support a project that resonates with them than the general Christian consumer. See this post on the 17 percenters vs. the 70 percenters.)
In case you missed it, Deadline.com is reporting that ABC pulled the series from the fall schedule because it “received mixed reactions at the upfront,” among other things. The network is reportedly retooling Of Kings and Prophets and making casting changes.
This is GREAT NEWS; it offers a huge, crucial opportunity for ABC to get it right.
On a scale of one-to-five, Faith Driven Consumers rate biblical accuracy as the #1 factor in considering whether or not to tune in. However, given that at least two of the folks involved with ABC’s project worked on EXODUS: GODS & KINGS—the lackluster Ridley Scott epic that could have been a biblical blockbuster—it would appear that ABC is aiming to strike out with Of Kings and Prophets.
Polling data that our sister company—research firm American Insights—released before EXODUS hit theaters accurately predicted the film’s eventual ho-hum box office gross. 80% of Christians said they would be likely to see EXODUS if it accurately portrayed the biblical account, but that number switched to a stunning 69% “no thanks, not interested” if the film was not accurate.
We know the rest.
Moses was not a mujahedeen-style freedom fighter, God is not an angry, vengeful, petulant little boy, and the plagues were miracles, not mere acts of chance with no supernatural engagement. These are just a few reasons why the film earned a tepid 2.5 out of 5 stars on Faith Driven Consumer’s Faith-Friendly Film Review scorecard.
In the end, EXODUS failed to resonate with its core audience, and without that group of vocal cheerleaders it failed to resonate with just about everyone.
As Paste Magazine recently pointed out:
"It is worth noting the writers’ previous take on a biblical story, Exodus: Gods and Kings, was a flop and was not well received by critics and audiences alike. The film was criticized not only for its white-washed casting, but also for its writing and interpretation of the Exodus story."
So, take a logical leap with us.
If you make a series of movies about Harry Potter, whom do you need to bring to the box office most critically? Fans of the books. If you make a series of films based on The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, which is the first crowd that will bite? Fans of the books. Ergo, if you create a project based on a Bible story or stories, what is the first market segment you need? (Hint: Mel Gibson figured this out more than a decade ago with his small, independent film that still holds a world record.)
This takes us right back to Of Kings and Prophets. Take a second and watch the official trailer.
Even with only 2:20 of footage to see here, there are clear indications that it’s rife with problems. Three examples:
- “The people chose me,” says King Saul 26 seconds in. 1 Samuel 9:15 clearly states that God chose Saul, not the people.
- At :38, David appears and tells a woman he wants to take on Goliath. This David is a mid-twenties, fully mature grown man. In contrast, the Bible is clear that—at that time in his life—David was a mere child, maybe only as old as 13. 1 Samuel 17:42 says, “He [Goliath] looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him.”
- Perhaps the most offensive example: the suggestion at 1:04 that David and “the woman”—Saul’s wife—are sexually involved. There is no biblical support for this, and in fact, we know that ultimately David went on to marry Saul’s daughter, Michal.
“So what,” you may say, “it’s all fairy tales anyway.” Even if you hold to that view—which Faith Driven Consumers will obviously disagree with—these are THEIR “fairy tales” and THEY want you to get them right. Faith Driven Consumers are savvy—they’ve seen marketing materials for NOAH and EXODUS—and they see that Of Kings and Prophets has that same “here they go again, messing with the biblical story and message” feel of these previous projects.
The Faith Driven Consumer community often asks us the same question: why do they [Hollywood] keep doing this? What do they gain by changing the story?
And when they ask us this question, it’s not good for you—the person in charge of said project. Nearly three-quarters of Faith Driven Consumers AVOID watching TV and films that conflict with their Christian worldview…ouch.
Clearly, there is a perception that by making these in the mold of the industry formula, you gain audience. But the facts say otherwise. The Bible is the world’s oldest and most revered IP. Stick to the story, and your project takes off. Deviate from the story and message, and nobody is happy.
We’ll leave you with these data points.
81% of Faith Driven Consumers are likely to recommend a movie to others, compared to 79% of Christians overall. 49% of FDCs are very likely to recommend a movie, compared to 39% of Christians overall, while 61% of Faith Driven Consumers are likely to discourage others from seeing a movie, compared to 49% of Christians overall. 31% of FDCs are very likely to discourage a movie, compared to 17% of Christians overall.
All this to say, back to the drawing board ABC, this is your chance to get it right. Faith Driven Consumers are here and they have money in their hands—ready, willing and able to buy. The question is, do you want the customers?
Catch our panel at Variety’s #PurposeSummit on June 25th at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. For more information, click here.